April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, but no matter what month it is oral cancer is always an important topic!

The death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high due to routinely discovering it late in development. Approximately 45,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,650 deaths, killing 1 person every 24 hours.

However, approximately 37,100 individuals will survive, and that is the number to focus on!

Cancer is always a scary topic, but there are steps you can take to help decrease the risk of developing oral cancer.

Most cases of mouth cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol use.

3 out of 4 people diagnosed with oral cancer have used tobacco, alcohol, or both.

Avoiding the use of tobacco and/or alcohol will help to decrease the risk of developing oral cancer. The more often a person uses tobacco or drinks alcohol then the more likely they are to develop this cancer.

Over exposure to the sun is another risk factor for oral cancer. So to help reduce this risk, it is very important to apply lip balm and lotion that has sunscreen before exposing yourself to the sun for extended periods of time.

It is also wise to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet to help decrease the risk of developing oral cancer. Studies show that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of developing this cancer. Diet is vital to an individual’s overall health, so having a healthy and well-balanced diet will assist with having great health.

However, even if an individual takes all the steps to reduce risk it is important to stay alert to any symptoms that may occur.

Symptoms include:

  • Patches inside of the mouth (These patches are generally bright red or white)
  • A sore lip that does not heal
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Loose permanent teeth
  • Difficulty or pain swallowing
  • A lump(s) in the neck
  • Constant earache that does not go away
  • Occurring numbness of lower lip and chin

If an individual experiences any or all of these symptoms it is essential to visit the doctor and/or dentist to get diagnosed immediately.

Even if symptoms are not apparent, an individual may still complete a self-exam for oral cancer as frequently as they desire.

During the examination an individual should check the (1) floor of the mouth, (2) roof of the mouth, (3) cheeks, (4) lips, (5) tongue, and (7) back of the throat.

The individual doing the self-exam should look for the following:

  • Color difference
  • Texture change
  • Lesions
  • Lumps

If something looks odd take a picture and immediately make an appointment with your dentist and/or doctor.

For detailed steps on how to perform a self-exam please visit this website: http://www.sixstepscreening.org/self-exam/?doing_wp_cron=1430322507.6662449836730957031250.

Oral cancer is highly treatable when it is caught early. So, remember if anything feels odd at any time schedule an appointment immediately! You can never take too many precautions.