This week I diagnosed my first case of Oral Cancer within my time practicing. So far I (and my patients) have been lucky not to have been affected by this devastating disease as it is said that a full time dentist will see a case every 5 years.
It has hit home to me how important it is for my patients to know about oral cancer so they can help reduce their risk factors and make sure they attend for their examinations. At every examination a dentist will carry out an Oral Health Screen, this should be done at a minimum once a year.
In this blog post, I have delved into the intricacies of oral cancer, its risk factors, symptoms, and the importance of early detection. Knowledge is power, and by shedding light on this subject, I hope to create awareness and inspire proactive steps towards oral cancer prevention.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer refers to a group of malignancies that affect the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, sinuses, and throat.
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing oral cancer. The primary ones include:
a) Tobacco Use: Smoking and smokeless tobacco use are major contributors to oral cancer development.
b) Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk.
c) Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: Certain strains of HPV have been linked to oral cancer.
d) Prolonged Sun Exposure: Chronic exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of lip cancer.
e) Poor Oral Hygiene: Neglecting dental care and hygiene may contribute to the development of oral cancer.
f) Age and Gender: Men over the age of 40 are at higher risk than women, but the gap is closing due to changing lifestyle patterns.
Recognising the Symptoms:
Detecting oral cancer in its early stages is critical for successful treatment. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:
a) Persistent mouth sores or ulcers that don’t heal.
b) Red or white patches in the mouth.
c) Unexplained bleeding in the oral cavity.
d) Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking.
e) Numbness or pain in the mouth or lips.
f) A lump or thickening of the cheek or tongue.
g) Dramatic weight loss without apparent cause.
The Importance of Regular Oral Cancer Screenings:
Routine dental check-ups can play a pivotal role in early detection. Dentists are trained to identify potential signs of oral cancer, and prompt action can lead to better treatment outcomes. Make sure you see a dentist at least annually!
Prevention is Key:
Adopting healthy lifestyle choices can significantly lower the risk of oral cancer. Here are some preventative measures:
a) Quit Smoking: If you smoke, seek support to quit this harmful habit.
b) Limit Alcohol Consumption: Moderation is key; limit alcohol intake to reduce risk.
c) Sun Protection: Use lip balms with SPF and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your lips from the sun.
d) Balanced Diet: Embrace a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as they provide essential nutrients and antioxidants.
e) Practicing Good Oral Hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits are crucial for oral health.
Oral cancer may be silent, but it is not invincible. Armed with knowledge and awareness, we can take preventive actions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this life-threatening disease. Regular screenings, healthy lifestyle choices, and early intervention can save lives. Let us unite in the fight against oral cancer, spreading awareness and advocating for better oral health practices worldwide. Together, we can unmask the silent threat and pave the way for a healthier future.
If you haven’t been seen recently then please contact us or call 01446 771163 to get booked in for your examination.