Every year approximately 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, a largely preventable form of cancer affecting the mouth and/or part of the throat. Most oral cancers are related to alcohol use, the use of tobacco products, or both. Drinking alcohol only in moderation and avoiding all tobacco products can help reduce your risk for oral cancer.
Early detection of oral cancer is very important as it can spread quickly if not treated aggressively. It is very important to communicate with your physician or oral surgeon if you notice continued changes in your mouth or throat. This could include swelling, sores (ulcers), numbness, or difficulty with swallowing or eating. A thorough oral cancer exam performed by an oral surgeon can identify the early signs of oral cancer.
The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathological process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish or whitish patches in the mouth
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening (often painless) on the skin lining inside the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
You should promptly notify your physician or oral surgeon if you experience any of these warning signs.
Facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason can be a warning sign of oral cancer. However, it is important to note that oral pain does not always occur with pathology, and is more often not associated with oral cancer. Nonetheless, If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of oral cancer or have noticed changes in your mouth or throat, the best thing would be to notify your physician promptly. Your physician may refer you to an oral surgeon who can perform a thorough oral cancer examination and a biopsy, if indicated.