Reviewed by Dr. Benjamin Foley, DDS

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

April is oral cancer awareness month, so we wanted to dedicate this blog to educating our readers and patients on the risk factors associated with oral cancer.

In this blog, we will discuss what oral cancer is, who is at risk, and steps you can take to prevent it. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Understanding Oral Cancer

Oral cancer (also called mouth cancer) appears as a growth or sore in the oral cavity that does not go away. This includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, the floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, jaw bones and throat. 

Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment, making knowledge about risk factors all the more important.

The risk factors for oral, oropharyngeal, and neck cancers include:

  • Tobacco use: This is the leading cause of oral cancer. Tobacco smoking in any form greatly increases the risk. Smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, betel quid and areca nut are particularly harmful.
  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy drinkers are at a higher risk for developing oral cancers, especially when combined with tobacco use.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Infection with certain types of HPV, especially HPV16, has been linked to a higher risk of oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Excessive sun exposure: This particularly increases the risk of lip cancers.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Neglecting oral health care might contribute to the development of cancer in the oral cavity.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Risk

  1. Quit tobacco in all forms. If you need help quitting, speak to your health care provider about tobacco cessation medications or support programs.
  2. Limit alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of cancer. Limit the amount you drink or quit completely.
  3. Maintain good oral hygiene. Regular dental check-ups can detect precancerous conditions early.
  4. Protect your lips from excessive sun exposure by using lip balm with SPF.
  5. Vaccinate against HPV. Vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of HPV-associated cancers.

Recognize Symptoms Early

Early symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • Persistent sores or pain in the mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or sore throat
  • A lump or thickening in the oral cavity, cheek, lips or floor of mouth
  • White or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • A change in voice or weight loss
  • A painful bleeding sore that doesn’t heal
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in the face, mouth, lips or tongue
  • Facial swelling or a change in your appearance
  • A growing mass in the neck that doesn’t resolve after 1-2 weeks

If you notice any of these symptoms, book an appointment with one of our oral surgeons as soon as possible. Early intervention can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment.

Foley & Le: Your Allies in the Fight Against Oral Cancer

At Foley and Le Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, we strive to provide our patients with comprehensive care for any oral health concerns. Our team of experts is well-equipped to identify risk factors, detect early symptoms, and offer appropriate treatment options.

We strongly believe that education and awareness are key in the fight against oral cancer. That’s why we are dedicated to not only treating but also educating our community about this condition. Together, we can save lives by understanding the risk factors and recognizing symptoms early.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Book an appointment with us today for a thorough oral health evaluation and take a proactive step in protecting yourself against oral cancer.

If you are searching for an oral surgeon in Boulder, an oral surgeon near me, or oral cancer screening near me, we can help. Call (303) 444-2255 to book an appointment or complete the online booking form.

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