According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. In the past, oral cancer has had a high death rate because the early stages of the disease usually do not cause pain or symptoms, making it easy for the cancer to go unnoticed until it has advanced quite a bit. Medical professionals are on a mission to spread awareness of the warning signs of oral cancer so that going forward, the disease can be detected more easily.

Although anyone can develop oral cancer, there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s chances of getting it. Drs. Ali and Shery Mansouri of Serene Dental Center encourage all patients, especially those with one or more risk factors, to have regular dental exams to check for any problems.

Tobacco Use

Smoking is unquestionably the biggest risk factor for oral cancer. People who smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes or use chewing tobacco or snuff are at a markedly higher risk of developing oral cancer.

Alcohol Use

The American Cancer Society estimates that 7 out of 10 patients with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. For men, “heavy drinking” means consuming more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week; for women it means consuming more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease with several different types (i.e., “strains”). Some strains have been linked to oral cancer.

Age

Two-thirds of people with oral cancer are 55 or older. The average age at diagnosis is 62.

Gender

Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women are. Some experts believe this is because men are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol, and others think it is linked to the rise in HPV in younger men.

Genetics

Some people inherit genetic defects that raise the risk of oral cancer. Two examples are fanconi anemia, a disease that affects the bone marrow, and dyskeratosis congenita, in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

As mentioned, oral cancer often goes unnoticed until it is too late because it doesn’t cause pain or discomfort in its early stages. The physical changes that the cancer causes may seem minor, not causing any concern. Nevertheless, there are still signs and symptoms, including the following:

    • red or white patches of tissue in the mouth
    • small ulcers that resemble canker sores
    • lumps or masses inside the mouth or neck
    • pain or difficulty while swallowing, speaking or chewing
    • numbness in the mouth or face

Although these signs or symptoms may be subtle, our dentists can detect them during a routine dental exam or check-up. Be sure to schedule an appointment at Serene Dental Center every six months so we can catch any problems in their earliest stages, when they are more treatable. Call (949) 748-7373 or email us today to make your appointment.