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Oral Cancer Series: Catch it Early!

By Jill Hamilton on April 17, 2012 in Dental Health


In our third installment of our Oral Cancer series, we want to make sure you have the knowledge of the warning signs that could appear if you have oral cancer. To start with, you should review your habits and identify any risk factors you may be exposing yourself to.

Do you smoke? How much? Do you drink alcohol? Smoking and drinking are large contributing factor to the development of oral cancer.  Other risk factors include:

  • HPV infections
  • Lengthy exposure to sun
  • Past history of oral cancer
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables 1

If you are engaging in risky behaviors, you should pay extra close attention to any changes that occur in your mouth or on your lips. Oral cancer frequently begins as a small red or white sore in the mouth. Sometimes these sores could be painless so it is important to look into your mouth every so often. If you see anything suspicious, make an appointment with you dentists as soon as possible. 1

When looking in at your mouth, make sure to note the way your teeth fit together. A change in your teeth could signify something is wrong. Difficulty chewing, swallowing and problems using the jaw or tongue can also be problematic also. Be aware of any lumps around your mouth, under your tongue, and around your jaw. Hard lumps are a sign that you need to see a dentist. 1

The American Cancer Society recommends that you use a mirror once a month to check yourself for signs and symptoms of cancer in your mouth and throat. Your dentist should also routinely look for such changes in your mouth and tongue—one more reason that regular checkups are so valuable. If you are aware of your risk, changes that occur in your mouth, and what to do if something look suspicious, you could be saving your life.2

1) “Oral Health Topics.” Cancer, Oral. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. http://www.ada.org/2607.aspx
2) “Protect Yourself with Oral Cancer Exams.” Delta Dental. Web. 27 Mar. 2012..