April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month! What better time to learn what oral cancer is, what its symptoms are, and how to promote early detection!
What is oral cancer?
There are two types of oral cancer. One is centralized in the mouth (lips, gums, teeth, tongue, floor of the mouth, cheek lining, and roof of the mouth), and one appears in the upper throat (the soft part of the roof of your mouth that reaches the back of the throat – and the very back section of the tongue).
Common symptoms and early detection
It is vital that you become familiar with the following symptoms and early signs of oral cancer:
- Pain, numb sensation, or tenderness in the mouth or lips
- Change in the way your teeth “fit” as you open and close your mouth
- A sore or irritation in your mouth or throat that doesn’t heal within 14 days
- A lump, thickening, or rough patch somewhere in the mouth or on the tongue
- Red, white, or black discoloration of any soft tissue of the mouth
- Painless and firm lump on the outside of the neck, persistent for more than 14 days
- Hoarseness or sore throat that persists
- Difficulty swallowing (feeling like food is constantly getting stuck in your throat)
- Unresolved and constant coughing
Call your dentist immediately if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Preventing oral cancer
The best way to prevent oral cancer is to be aware of the risk factors of this disease and have regular dental checkups.
According to the Check Your Mouth campaign, “Early discovery in most cancers, and in oral cancer specifically, leads to less invasive treatments and ultimately better long-term outcomes and survival.”
Check Your Mouth suggests 5-10 minute monthly self-exams as one of the best preventions of oral cancer. Visit their website to find step-by-step instructions for oral self-exams.