Oral Cancer includes cancers occurring on structures in and around the mouth, such as the tongue, the lips, some of the salivary glands, and the back of the throat. Tobacco and alcohol are the most important oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer risk factors. Mouth cancer is largely a lifestyle disease, meaning that the majority of cases are related to tobacco and alcohol use.
Approximately 90% of people with mouth cancer are tobacco users. Smokers are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop mouth cancer. Users of smokeless tobacco have a 50 times more likely chance of developing mouth cancer. Statistics show only 6% of head and neck cancer recurrence in patients who stop smoking in contrast to 37% of head and neck cancer patients who continue smoking developing a second cancer.
Those who both smoke and drink have a 15 times greater risk of developing mouth cancer than others. Alcohol drinkers are 6 times more likely than nondrinkers to develop mouth cancer.
Oral Cancer: Signs and Symptoms
- A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks
- A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
- A feeling that something is caught in the throat
- A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- Neck swelling present for more than three weeks
- Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for more than three weeks – see a dentist urgently
- Unilateral nasal mass / ulceration / obstruction, particularly associated with purulent or bloody discharge
How can I Prevent Oral Cancer?
If you don’t chew or smoke tobacco don’t start. Tobacco use accounts for 80 to 90 percent of oral cancers. Smoking the link between smoking, lung cancer and heart disease is well established. Smoking also affects your general health, making it harder to fight infections and recover from injuries or surgery.
Many smokers find they can’t smell or taste as well as before, and risk developing bad breath and stained teeth. Smoking cigarettes, a pipe or a cigar greatly increases your chances of developing cancer of the larynx, mouth, throat and esophagus. Because so many people are not aware of or ignore early symptoms, oral cancer often spreads before it is detected.
Chewing Tobacco chronic users of smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users.
It’s best to avoid smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, chewing tobacco or dipping snuff. People who stop using tobacco, even after many years of use, greatly reduce their risk for oral cancer. Chronic and/or heavy use of alcohol also increases your risk of cancer, and alcohol combined with tobacco creates an especially high risk.