WHO IS AT RISK FOR ORAL CANCER?
While oral cancer unfortunately can happen to anyone, there are factors that can increase your chances of developing cancer.
- Gender: Oral cancer, along with oropharyngeal cancer, is twice as common in men as in women, though this is believed to be more due to lifestyle choices than sexual genetics.
- Age: The average age for oral cancer diagnosis is 62 years old. Two thirds of all oral cancer cases are in people over the age of 55, and half of cancer patients had early warning signs.
- Ultraviolet light: Individuals who work outdoors for long periods of time need to have oral cancer screening tests because the exposure to UV rays can cause cancer of the lips.
- Genetics: Some genetic issues and prevalence of certain health conditions can make cancer a much bigger threat and increase the chance of oral cancer being discovered.
- Tobacco use: A staggering 80% of people with some type of oral cancer are routine users of tobacco including smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco, with vaping and chew being a little worse.
- Alcohol: A surprising 70% of heavy drinkers who have oral cancer screenings done end up being diagnosed with some form of oral cancer despite their otherwise good oral hygiene.
- HPV infection: Human papilloma viruses and around 100 similar viruses can increase the risk of a number of cancers, one of the surprising ones being oral cancers.
SIGNS OF ORAL CANCER
In the beginning stages of oral cancer, symptoms can be difficult to identify. Therefore, relying on good oral hygiene alone is not enough. You need to trust your dental team to keep tabs on your oral health, and you need to get oral cancer screenings on a regular basis. If you are seeing any warning signs, you need to report them to your dental team right away. Common signs of early oral cancer include:
- Sores, bumps, lumps, or unusual spots in the mouth
- Red or white sores and lesions on the gums or inside cheeks
- Pain or numbness in the cheeks, tongue, gums, or throat
- Difficulty with talking, chewing, drinking, or breathing
- Chronic sore throat or knots in the neck or cheeks
- Severe bleeding of the gums or sudden loss of teeth
- Obvious signs of infection that do not clear up or that worsen
Since many of these symptoms can be very subtle in the early stages if they are noticed at all, early detection with screening is essential so treatment can start before severe damage occurs.