A common question patients ask me is, “Am I at risk for oral cancer and what can I do to prevent it?” Oral cancer is a form of cancer that occurs in the mouth. It most frequently presents on the tongue, soft palate (roof of the mouth), floor of the mouth, lips, and the gums. Although the exact cause of oral cancer is unknown, there are known risk factors such as excessive exposure to the sun, tobacco, and alcohol. There is also research that suggests that some forms of oral cancer may be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). A hallmark of our age is the hands on approach many Americans are taking with their health care. The advent of sites like WebMD have led to more educated and healthier patients. By avoiding known risk factors and being more aware of your general health, your doctors are better able to diagnose and treat health problems earlier.
Tips to decrease your chances of oral cancer and/or catch it early:
- Be observant, if you see something that doesn’t look right in your mouth, get it checked out immediately. Oral cancer is typically painless in the early stages and is normally represented by red, white or discolored lesions, patches or lumps in or around the mouth.
- Avoid common rish factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and excessive sun exposure.
- See your dentist regularly! Early diagnosis is key for oral cancer treatment. Ideally, you should be seeing your dentist every six months for routine checkups. During your oral cancer screenings, your dentist will check your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity for any lumps, or irregular tissue changes