There are many different types of oral cancers, and not all present the same way. Like any type of cancer, oral cancer occurs when cells develop mutations, which tells the cells to grow without stopping. It’s not always clear what causes these mutations, but there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of getting cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
- Getting too much sun — Just like in skin cancer, too much sun can cause cancerous spots on the lips and mouth.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) — This common virus is at the base of many oral cancers diagnoses. If you have HPV, you are at higher risk for oral cancer.
- Heavy alcohol use — Since alcohol suppresses the immune system, heavy alcohol use can put you at risk of developing oral cancer.
- Tobacco use — Like lung cancer, oral cancer is a possible by-product of heavy smoking.
- Weak immune system — Individuals with already-weak immune systems are unable to fight off infections as easily as healthy individuals.
- Bad diet — A diet low in fruits and vegetables puts you at risk by depriving your body of nutrients you need.
But how do you know if you have oral cancer? Only a medical professional can tell you for sure, but here are some things to look out for:
Oral Cancer Symptoms
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- A mouth sore that bleeds or doesn’t heal
- Loose teeth
- Tongue pain or numbness
- A lump in your mouth
- Jaw pain or swelling
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your dentist. Remember, when it comes to oral cancer, you are not helpless! It’s your responsibility to be vigilant about your health. The sooner oral cancer is caught, the sooner it can be treated.
If you think you might be at risk for oral cancer and wish to discuss things further, give our office a call at (575) 527-4746 to talk things over with our friendly dental team.
Plan an oral cancer screening today!