Oral cancer: Its signs and symptoms, risk factors and prevention

Oral cancer is the growth of cancerous cells in any part of the oral cavity. It encompasses the cancer of the lips, buccal cavity, tongue, hard and soft palates, tonsils, sinuses, salivary glands and the throat. According to the American Cancer Society, about 37,000 people in the U.S. are estimated to have oral or oropharyngeal cancer in 2014 alone.

This cancer is twice common in males than females but is equally common among colored and white people. Average age of people having oral cancer is 62 years old but it is not unheard for young people to develop this type of cancer. Heavy alcohol drinkers and tobacco smokers have the greatest risk of developing oral cancer. In recent studies, people infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) are prone to developing cancer of the oral cavity. In the case of lip cancer, excessive sun exposure plays a part in the growth of cancerous cell on the lips.

Oral cancer is life threatening because most of the signs and symptoms appear on the late stage of the disease or when it has metastasized to other parts of the oral cavity. This type of cancer maybe asymptomatic in its early stage or it may present as red or white patches in the mouth, a non-healing ulcer within two weeks, an unusual oral bleeding or epistaxis and a swelling, lumpy or rough spots on the lips, gums and other areas inside the mouth. In its later stages, the patient may feel pain or numbness where the cancer is localized, chronic ear pain, sore throat or hoarseness of the voice, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, and a remarkable weight loss.

If you suspect you are at risk for oral cancer(heavy alcohol drinker, smoker, previous history of oral cancer and excessive sun exposure), you have to talk to your doctor or dentist about it. He/she will order you to undergo an oral cancer screening. Oral cancer screenings are examinations performed by your dentist or doctor to look for signs of cancer growth or precancerous condition. It’s main goal is to early detect oral cancer so that cancerous lesions or lumps are removed and other unusual changes in the oral cavity are treated and managed as early as possible.

Many would say prevention is always better than cure and it is true. There are ways on how avoid oral cancer and these include:

  • Lifestyle change – Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcoholics should ask professional help in dealing with their alcohol addiction. They could also try contacting support groups in dealing with their problem.

Stop smoking – either cigarette or tobacco smoking, they are both harmful to your health. It appears that smoking cessation decreases oral cancer based on some studies conducted. Long-time smokers need professional help in dealing with smoking cessation because most of them may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

The support of loved-ones is very important with the lifestyle change of this patients.

  • If possible avoid sun exposure. Use lip gloss with SPF content to help in protecting your lips from the harmful rays of the sun.
  • Treat patients with HPV.
  • Eat healthy foods rich in vitamin C and antioxidants to make your body strong and healthy, and combat the growth of cancerous cells in the body.


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