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Joseph M. Arzadon, DDS, MD
Oral Cancer: Symptoms and Risk Factors
Northern Virginia Surgical Arts
. https://www.novasurgicalarts.com/

Oral Cancer: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Oral Cancer: Symptoms and Risk Factors

When it comes to the lining of the mouth, there is a special type of skin (mucosa) that is coral pink in color and smooth in texture. Changes in color or texture may indicate a warning sign for a pathological process such as oral cancer.

The following can signal a pre-cancerous or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
  • A sore that doesn’t heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining inside of the mouth
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness (difficulty chewing or swallowing)

These changes can also be noticed on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face, and/or neck. Pain isn’t always associated with oral pathology. If you experience facial or oral pain with no obvious reason, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Routine oral cancer screenings by your dental professional are highly recommended.

Regular screenings are especially important to people who are at a higher risk for oral cancer. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices. 

The risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer is greatly increased by two factors:

Tobacco use. Using tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff, is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer. 85% of head and neck cancer is linked to tobacco use. 

Alcohol. Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol increases the risk of head and neck cancer. Using alcohol and tobacco together increases this risk even more.

Other factors that can raise a person’s risk include:

  • Prolonged sun exposure
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Gender – men are more likely to develop than women.
  • Fair skin 
  • Age – people older than 45 have an increased risk for oral cancer.
  • Poor oral hygiene/diet/nutrition
  • Weakened immune system
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