By Dr. Abigail Tubio
Oral cancer affects thousands of Americans each year, yet few are aware
of the signs to detect it and the steps that can be taken to prevent it. The older you get, the more susceptible you may become to oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, most cases develop over the age of 50 and the risks increase with age. In 2018, an estimated 51,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and more than 10,000 will die of the disease. The average age of people diagnosed with oral cancer is 62 and men are more likely than women to develop the disease at a ratio of six to one.
Proactive prevention is the best way to stay ahead of oral cancer. The number one risk factor stems from the human papillomavirus (HPV). Infection with certain types of HPV can cause some forms of cancer, including cancers of the mouth and throat. The type linked to throat cancer is HPV16. Most people with HPV infections of the mouth and throat have no symptoms, which is why it’s so important to get regular checkups. Other causes of oral cancer include heavy use of tobacco and alcohol. Those who smoke and drink daily are at the greatest risk. Sun damage also takes part in the development of oral cancer. Dentists recommend wearing at least SPF 30 or higher on lips.
Like most cancers, early detection is key, however early indicators of oral cancer may be hidden. Signs to watch out for include pain in facial areas and ears while swallowing or coughing. Other signs may include enlarged lymph nodes, ulcers, or red and white patchy spots in the back of the throat and constant bad breath. The medical treatments available for oral cancer include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
Overall, 10.5 out of 100,000 adults will develop oral cancer according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. There are treatments available, but awareness, self-care,
prevention and early detection are best. Take action in bettering your health and be aware of what to look for when brushing your teeth. If your throat seems
abnormally sore or irritated, then consult a licensed professional. Tackling oral
cancer early and head on is the best way to fight it.
Dr. Abigail Tubio is a dentist
practicing at Sage Dental,