You Should Know
- Oral Cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or sore anywhere in the mouth.
- It can affect any area of the oral cavity including the lips, gum tissue, check lining, tongue and the hard or soft palate.
- Other signs include:
o A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal
o A color change of the oral tissues
o A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
o Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
o Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.
o A change in the way the teeth fit together
- Oral Cancer most often occurs in those who use tobacco in any form.
- Alcohol use combined with smoking greatly increases risk.
- Prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of lip cancer.
- Oral cancers can occur in people who do not smoke and have no other known risk factors.
- Oral Cancer is more likely to strike after age 40.
- Studies suggest that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may prevent the development of potentially cancerous lesions.
Prevention and Detection
- The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.
- Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
- Many types of abnormal cells can develop in the oral cavity in the form of red or white spots. Some are harmless and benign, some are cancerous and others are pre-cancerous, meaning they can develop into cancer if not detected early and removed. (American Cancer Society)
- Finding and removing epithelial dysplasias before they become cancer can be one of the most effective methods for reducing the incidence of cancer.
- Knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for oral cancer screenings can help prevent this deadly disease. Routine use of the Pap smear since 1955, for example, dramatically reduced the incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer in the United States.
- Oral cancer is often preceded by the presence of clinically identifiable premalignant changes. These lesions may present as either white or red patches or spots. Identifying white and red spots that show dysplasia and removing them before they become cancer is an effective method for reducing the incidence and mortality of cancer.
Copyright 1995-2008 American Dental Association.