Take heed: April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month—a good time to visit your dentist for a screening
More than 21,000 men and 9,000 women in the United States annually receive oral cancer diagnoses, according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2013, there will be 41,380 new cases of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in the U.S., resulting in 7,890 deaths, according to NCI.
Oral cancer can strike in the mouth and throat with most of these cancers beginning in the flat cells—squamous cells—that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue and lips. Some of the risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, infection with human papillomavirus, sun exposure, diet, betel nut use, and personal history of oral cancer.
Symptoms to watch for include patches inside the mouth or on the lips, a sore on the mouth or lips that doesn’t heal, bleeding in the mouth, loose teeth, pain or difficulty swallowing, lump in the neck, numbness of lower lip and chin, difficulty wearing dentures and a persistent earache.
Visit your dentist or physician immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
The National Cancer Institute has resources on oral cancer at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral. The American Dental Association’s consumer website, MouthHeathy.org, also features information about oral cancer.
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