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Everything you need to know about oral cancer

Any cancer that develops in or around the mouth like lips, tongue, inside the cheeks, gums, or jaw can be described as oral cancer. 

In this blog, let us answer some frequently asked questions about oral cancer to help you understand it better, and be aware of the early signs and symptoms in order to prevent them.

Is my dental pain an early symptom of oral cancer?

Symptoms like mouth sore, bleeding gums, or a toothache are often confused with oral cancer. Although some of them might be early signs of oral cancer, more often than not, they are less serious dental diseases. If not accompanied by any other symptom, your dental pain is most likely not to be oral cancer. However, if the problem persists, consult your dentist for a screening test to rule out the option of cancer and get the proper treatment for your pain.

What are the first signs of oral cancer?

Mouth cancer usually starts to show in the flat thin cells that line the lips and inside of the mouth. Here are some early signs and symptoms of oral cancer to look out for. 

  • A sore in the mouth that does not recover itself or heal 
  • Rough skin texture in the mouth, on the inside of your cheeks, or gums
  • White or bright red patches on the skin inside your mouth 
  • A persistent sore throat with enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • Mouth pain along with ear pain and difficulty in swallowing. 
  • Loosening or falling of teeth. 

Can a sexually transmitted disease cause oral cancer?  

Yes, one can develop oral cancer through sexually transmitted diseases. One of the leading causes of oral cancer is HPV infection, which is a sexually transmitted disease. The rise in the number of HPV is now a big concern in the US. To avoid developing this infection, you should get vaccinated, educate yourself about safe sexual health practices, and get tested.

Can smoking one cigarette cause oral cancer? 

Even one cigarette can damage DNA. The smoke released from a cigarette contains over 5000 chemicals, and many of these are harmful. Although chances of developing cancer from one cigarette are less likely. However, consumption of cigarettes and tobacco use in any form is among the top causes of mouth cancer. Stop smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco to avoid exposure to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals that cause cancer. 

What causes mouth cancer? 

There are various causes of oral cancer. It can be a patient's environment, exposure to certain chemicals (such as smoking or consuming tobacco), or even genetics. It begins with a change from regular cells to harmful tumors that spread to the body.

  • It can result from any of the physical, biological, or chemical factors. Still, the most common are chemical factors caused by smoking or chewing tobacco. 
  • Oral cancer can also occur after a traumatic injury to the mouth or from physiological factors such as prolonged infections or viruses.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol and excessive exposure to the sun can also lead to oral cancer.
  •  A sexually transmitted disease called HPV is another factor that contributes to the development of oral cancer. 

Who can develop mouth cancer? 

Mouth cancer can happen to anyone, irrespective of age. However, there is a specific population that is more at risk of developing it. 

  1. Chronic smokers - Smokers and chewing tobacco users are a high-risk group due to the chemical makeup of these carcinogens.
  2. An estimated 54,010 adults in the United States are diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer every year. The rate of this cancer development is more than twice as high in men as compared to women. 
  3. People over the age of 50 are also at higher risk. Since oral cancer has been linked to a person's genetics, it means they may be at higher risk if a family member has had the disease. 
  4. People who neglect oral health care may also be at increased risk for oral cancer. Infrequent dental appointments and poor dental hygiene can irritate the cells in your mouth and contribute to disease. 

Can oral cancer be treated? 

Early diagnosis can help treat the disease almost entirely. Nonetheless, cancer is preventable by following a simple dental hygiene routine, eating the right nutritious food, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking and tobacco consumption in any form, and making regular appointments with your dentist.

Author:- 9 months ago By Dr. Brinda Kansagra (DDS)
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