Did you know that your dentist checks for signs of oral cancer during routine visits? Your dentist is perhaps your first line of detection for oral cancer, which, along with other head and neck cancers, accounts for roughly four percent of cancers in America, according to the National Cancer Institute.
So, protect yourself with knowledge for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month by learning about the symptoms, the causes, and how to take preventive measures.
What is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month?
Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to bringing attention to and informing people about the risks of head and neck cancers, as well as encouraging high-risk adults to get free screenings.
What are oral, head, and neck cancers?
Cancers that occur in “the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat)” include the saliva glands, pharynx, larynx, and more.
What are the symptoms of oral, head, and neck cancers?
Let your dentist know if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Areas in your mouth that bleed frequently
- Swelling that isn’t normal or has no discernible cause
- Sores, or white or red patches
- Difficulty or painful swallowing
- Lumps in the mouth, head or neck
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Your dentist will want to run tests and may even decide to do a biopsy in order to rule out cancer.
Also make sure to notify your dentist if you have a family history of cancer or a history of alcohol or tobacco use, as these may be additional risk factors.
What are the risk factors of oral, head, and neck cancers?
Alcohol and tobacco are two of the leading causes of oral, head, and neck cancers, accounting for nearly 75 percent. Human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, is another leader, particularly when it comes to the tonsils and the tongue or the oropharynx. Foods and even poor oral hygiene habits may also play a role in the development of these cancers.
What are the treatments for oral, head, and neck cancers?
Treatments for oral, head, and neck cancers are as various as the types of cancers one can have, so it’s best to work with your dentist and doctor to create a treatment plan for your specific ailment.Treatments may involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, among other things.
What can I do to prevent oral, head, and neck cancers?
Start by taking care of yourself. Maintain a healthy diet and a regular oral heath routine, remembering to brush at least twice per day and floss once per day. Limit alcohol intake, avoid tobacco products, and discuss with your doctor how you can reduce your risk for HPV. Pay attention to your body and make sure to visit the dentist regularly. Take note of any strange symptoms or issues you’re having and discuss them with your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
Protect yourself with knowledge for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. Find a free screening near you.