April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month. When you think of cancer you are more likely to think of breast, skin, or colon cancer than oral cancer. Even though it is less common, oral cancer affects approximately 42,000 Americans every year. Along with other types of cancer, early detection increases the chance of recovering from this deadly disease. Seven Lakes Dental is a leading dental practice in Smokey Point WA. For this reason it is important that we remind you to come in for a screening as part of National Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
Oral Cancer sometimes goes unnoticed and undiagnosed because it often doesn’t produce any obvious pain or noticeable symptoms. It is important to have a trained professional like your dentist take a look. Come to Seven Lakes Dental and Dr. Larreau or Dr. Thomas can give you a thorough oral examination. You should also be aware of these signs of oral cancer when you are between your regular dental checkups:
Signs of Oral Cancer
- A sore or lesion in your mouth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal within a couple weeks
- Swelling of your jaw that makes your teeth fit poorly together or your dentures to become uncomfortable
- A lump or thickening in your cheek, or a rough spot or eroded area
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness of your tongue or other area in your mouth
- A white or red patch on your gums, tongue, tonsils, or the lining of your mouth, or other color changes in your oral tissues
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
- A lingering sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in your throat for a prolonged period of time
The most common risk factor for oral cancer is the use of tobacco products. But there are many other things that can contribute to this problem also. We can’t guarantee prevention of illness but there are certainly steps we can take to reduce risk factors. Here are some things that can contribute to oral cancer:
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
- Smoking & Alcohol use – Most cases of oral cancer are linked to cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco, heavy alcohol use, or the use of both tobacco and alcohol together. Using tobacco plus alcohol poses a much greater risk than using either substance alone. If you don’t use tobacco products or consume alcohol then you are at a much lower risk. Let’s keep it that way – don’t start!
- HPV – Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (specifically the HPV 16 type) has been linked to a subset of oral cancers. Although this virus is common and can be harmless, it is often suggested that young women and men get vaccinated against it.
- Age – There is nothing you can do to change your age, but your risk definitely increases with age. Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40.
- Sun Exposure – Exposure to UV rays can cause cancer on your lips. Limit UV exposure and use sunscreen to protect your skin, including the skin on your lips. This skin is very delicate and just as susceptible to cancer as the skin anywhere else on your body. Use lip balm that has SPF.
- Diet – A diet low in fruits and vegetables may play a role in oral cancer development. It is recommended that you eat a healthy diet that includes beans, berries, broccoli, and cabbage to help lower your risk of cancer.
- Oral Hygiene – Good oral hygiene is a factor and contributes to better overall health. Brush & floss daily and keep regular dental appointments.
How to Observe Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Please observe National Oral Cancer Awareness Month by reminding your friends and family to see their dentist and request a screening. If they aren’t sure where they can go for a thorough screening we would love to have you refer them to us. Seven Lakes Dental is here to serve you, your friends & family, and the Marysville, Smokey Point, Arlington, and Stanwood areas.