What Is Oral Cancer and How to Prevent It?

Oral cancer is cancer that develops in any part of the mouth. Any cancer that develops in or around the lips, tongue, inside the cheeks, gums, or jaw can be described as oral cancer. This disease can be treated if it is discovered early. However, the mortality rate from oral cancer is still high, not because it is particularly aggressive, but because it is often discovered too late in patients. An estimated 54,010 adults in the United States are diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer every year. The rate of this cancer development is more than twice as high in men as compared to women. 

Let us look at the symptoms and causes of this cancer to understand how to prevent it. 

Symptoms of oral cavity cancer

Mouth cancers usually start with flat, smooth cells called squamous cells. These cells produce spots in the mouth that can vary in appearance and are often difficult to see with the untrained eye. Oral cancer can spread rapidly and often spread to and attack the lymph nodes in the patient's neck. Once it has spread to other parts of the body, it is much more challenging to treat.

Thus, it is essential to pay attention to anything that seems unusual in your mouth. If you experience pain or a change in tissue structure, see your dentist immediately for an oral cancer screening test. 

The following are some of the first signs and symptoms of mouth cancer: 

  • A sore in the mouth that does not recover itself or heal.
  • Rough skin texture in the mouth, on the inside of your cheeks, or gums.
  • A bleeding sore in the mouth. 
  • Unusual growth or swelling in and around the mouth. 
  • Any persistent ache in the mouth or tongue. 
  • White or bright red patches on the skin inside your mouth. 
  • A persistent sore throat. 
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.
  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn't improve.
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth.
  • Mouth pain along with ear pain and difficulty in swallowing. 
  • Loosening or falling of teeth. 

Causes of oral cavity cancer

Oral cancer occurs when cells in the lips or mouth develop changes in their DNA. Mutational changes signal cells to keep growing and dividing if any healthy cells die. The abnormal oral cancer cells that build up can form a tumor. Over time, they can spread to the mouth and other head and neck areas or other body parts, leading to cancer. Anyone can develop oral cancer. However, the following risk factors contribute to the development of the tumor.

  1. Tobacco use of any kind is among the top reasons for oral cancers. 
  2. Excessive consumption of alcohol
  3. Too much sun exposure to the lips
  4. A sexually transmitted disease called HPV 

Here is how to prevent oral cavity cancer  

There's no proven way to prevent mouth cancer. However, you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer. Here are some preventive measures that will help you prevent this disease. 

Avoid the use of tobacco in any form-

Use of tobacco in any form is among the top causes of mouth cancer. Stop smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco to avoid exposure to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals. 

Maintain good dental hygiene-

Follow simple dental hygiene practices. Brush your teeth twice a day, use a mouthwash, brush your tongue, and floss daily. 

Limit exposure to the sun-

The UV rays emitted by the sun are another leading cause of cancer. Try to cover your face with a hat while going outside. Make sunscreen an essential part of your daily routine. Do not ignore your lips; cover your lips in sunscreen to avoid direct exposure to the sun.

Choose foods that prevent cancer and drink lots of water-

Eat food that helps maintain good dental hygiene like milk, cheese, fish, eggs, etc. Drink a good amount of water to keep your mouth clean and problems at bay. 

Keep your immune system strong-

Maintain an active lifestyle by exercising regularly, consuming nutritious food like fruits and green leafy vegetables. Drink plenty of water, and try to maintain the right balance of minerals and nutrients in your body. This will ensure your immunity is strong and your body can fight any dangerous cells at the onset. 

Avoid HPV infections of the mouth-

HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease. The rise in the number of HPV is now a concern in the US. Avoid developing this infection by getting vaccinated, educating yourself about safe sexual health practices, and getting tested. 

Regular dental visits-

Lastly, make sure you visit your dentist once every few months for regular checkups. Your dentist is your best friend when it comes to fighting any dental disease. They can check your mouth for any signs and symptoms and do an oral cancer screening if required. This will ensure that the condition is prevented and treated at the very onset.