Oral Cancer | General Information

Cancer is a condition that everyone has been affected by in one way or another through family or friends. With a wide variety of different cancer forms, the oral variation is one that you probably have heard only a little about. It is a cancer that takes the lives of over 8 million people every year, affecting anyone from young adults to the elderly. The problem lies in the art of detection. Detection usually occurs only once it is in its advanced form, leading to lower survival rates compared to other forms of cancer; on average 50% over five years.


Where Does Oral Cancer Occur?

It can occur anywhere from the lips, gums, salivary glands and cheeks. However, the highest incidences are found around the tongue and floor of the mouth.


How Can We Prevent Oral Cancer?

Like other forms of cancer there is no one way to prevent it, but there are steps we can take to avoid the risk factors associated with the condition and ways to maximize our chances of detecting it early.

The risk factors that have been associated with oral cancer are lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and in particular the combination of the two. People who partake in these activities see a dramatic increase in the chances of being affected by oral cancer at some point in their lifetime. Other risk factors of note are excessive sun exposure, a diet lacking in key vitamins and nutrients, as well as people who have tested positive to HPV 16 or 18.  HPV, otherwise known as Human Papilloma Virus, is a sexually transmitted virus and the variants HPV 16 and HPV 18 are associated with a higher incidence of oral cancer.


How Can We Detect Oral Cancer?

Some of the signs dentists and the public can look out for when checking for oral cancer are irritating lumps or ulcers within the mouth that don’t heal. Any evidence of difficulty in swallowing or eating or restricted movement of the tongue or jaw should be noted. Any swellings or enlargements in the jaw that don’t allow appliances (such as dentures) to fit properly anymore should be brought to your dentist’s attention. Further, any difficulty in speaking or prolonged swelling of glands should be treated with suspicion.

What Should I Do To Reduce My Chances Of Getting Oral Cancer?

We recommend limiting the consumption of alcohol as well as any smoking habits and the combination of the two. Safe sex should be common practice, especially with multiple sexual partners, and excessive exposure to sunlight should be kept to a minimum. A healthy diet is important, and regular dental examinations are vital to maintain general health as well as to check for any signs or symptoms of oral cancer to maximize the chances of early detection and higher treatment success.