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What Are Risk Factors & Signs of Oral Cancer?

April 4, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephenhale @ 10:22 pm
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Oral cancer takes someone’s life every day of the year, but April in particular shines a spotlight on the issue considering it’s Oral Cancer Awareness Month. This is defined as cancer located in the back of the oral cavity and upper throat. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial since they reduce treatment-related health problems and increase survival rates. Unfortunately, oral cancer is routinely discovered late in development which leads to a high death rate. This year, an estimated 54,000 new cases will be diagnosed nationwide, and 43 percent of individuals will not live beyond five years. Keep reading to learn about risk factors and signs from your dentist in Texas City – it just might save your life.

What Are Signs of Oral Cancer Caused by Tobacco or Alcohol Use?

Some oral cancer is predominantly caused by tobacco use and/or excessive alcohol use. Be on the lookout for one or more of the following:

  • Sore or ulcer that does not heal within 14 days
  • Red, white, or black discoloration in the mouth’s soft tissues
  • Any abnormality that bleeds easily when touched
  • A lump or hard spot in tissue, usually bordering the tongue
  • Growth raised above the surrounding tissue
  • A sore under a denture that does not heal
  • A lump that develops in the mouth
  • Painless, firm lump felt on outside of the neck and remains at least two weeks

What Are Signs of Throat Cancer Due to HPV?

Oropharyngeal cancer in the throat can also be caused by smoking or alcohol use but being infected with human papillomavirus infection (HPV) can trigger it too. Signs and symptoms due to HPV can include one or more of the following:

  • Hoarseness or sore throat lasting more than two weeks
  • A swollen tonsil on just one side – usually painless
  • Painless, firm lump on the outside of the neck present for at least two weeks
  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty swallowing due to the sensation that food is caught in your throat
  • Persistent earache only on one side

If you have any of these suspicious signs, it is worth contacting your dentist as soon as possible.

What Are Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Research has identified several factors that may contribute to the development of oral and throat cancers. Historically, people at high risk have been heavy smokers and drinkers who are at least 50 years old.

Nowadays, this cancer occurs more frequently in nonsmokers due to human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16), which is the sexually transmitted virus most commonly associated with cervical cancer. Approximately 99 percent of those who develop an HPV oral infection will clear the virus, but in about one percent of people, it can lay dormant for decades before eventually causing cancer. This occurs mostly in a nonsmoking population and males account for 80 percent of these cases.

About 10 percent of oral cancers occur in individuals with no known risk factors. This may be due to an unidentified genetic frailty that has yet to be discovered.

Regular oral cancer exams performed by your dentist in Texas City remain the best method for detecting it in the early stages. And be mindful of the signs and symptoms listed above so you can check yourself at home between dental visits. After all, when oral cancer is detected and treated early, mortality and treatment-related health problems are reduced!

About the Author

Dr. Stephen Hale has nearly four decades of experience helping patients, and he’s been caring for smiles in the Texas City community since 1994. He earned his dental doctorate at the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. Hale is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry and an American Dental Association member. An oral cancer screening is a standard part of his routine checkups and cleanings which you can schedule on his website or by calling (409) 945-6551.

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