According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that approximately 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer by the end of 2019. Unfortunately, the mortality rate for this type of head and neck cancer is relatively high because it is often discovered in the later stages. Being aware of the causes, risk factors, and symptoms can help individuals discover the onset of oral cancer earlier.
Common Causes of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer forms when cells in the following parts of the oral cavity develop mutations in their DNA.
- Inner lining of cheeks
- Roof of the mouth
- Under the tongue
Oral cancers most commonly grow in the squamous (thin, flat) cells that line the lips and inside of the mouth. Mutations in our DNA cause cells to divide and grow as healthy cells die. These cells eventually form a tumor. Although it's not clear what causes these mutations, doctors have identified several risk factors that may increase our risk.
Risk Factors of Oral Cancer
The risk of developing oral cancer may increase due to the following:
- Tobacco use including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, or chewing tobacco
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
- The human papillomavirus (HPV)
- A weakened immune system
Oral Cancer Symptoms
You should see a doctor for any of the following symptoms:
- A sore on the lip or mouth that won't heal
- A lump or growth inside the mouth
- Mouth or ear pain
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained loose teeth
You can reduce your risk of developing oral cancer by modifying your lifestyle according to the following guidelines.
- Don't use any tobacco products
- Drink alcohol in moderation if at all
- Use sunblock on the lips
- Avoid unprotected sex
To learn more about oral cancer treatment and prevention, contact us today at 321-529-6202. Our Network of caring oncologists at the Parrish Cancer Center are here to help guide you every step of the way.