April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 40,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States alone.
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the oral cavity (the mouth) or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). There is no definitive explanation to why one person gets oral cancer and another doesn’t. However, there are certain risk factors that may increase the chance of getting this disease.
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
- Using tobacco
- Drinking alcohol
- HPV infection
- Unbalanced diet
Symptoms of mouth or throat cancer include:
- A thick or hard spot or lump
- Bleeding in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Lump in your neck
- Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
- Numbness, pain or tenderness of the lower lip and chin
Though these symptoms are often caused by health problems unrelated to oral cancer, early detection is important. Be sure to maintain routine dental visits, as your regular dental exam includes many screenings, including oral cancer.