Oral Cavity Cancers – What Is It and Risk Factors

Did you know - April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

One type of cancer we see the most of in our office, and have helped patients treat, are Oral Cavity Cancers. In our office, when a suspicious oral lesion is found, a biopsy is often used to detect or rule out oral cancer — a disease that is treatable if caught early. A biopsy involves removing a very small tissue sample for laboratory analysis.

There are generally three types of tumors that can develop in the oral cavity:

  • Benign Growths
    These are not cancer – they do no spread to other parts of the body or invade other tissues

  • Pre-Cancerous Conditions
    Harmless growths that can turn into cancer overtime

  • Cancer
    These are growths that can spread to other parts of the body and grow into other tissues

While anyone is at risk for oral cancer, there are a few factors that can put individuals at a higher risk. 80% of oral cancer is linked to tobacco use – including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff. The best way to eliminate this risk is to cut out the use of tobacco products completely.

Poor nutrition and oral hygiene practices also can put an individual at a higher risk for oral cancer. Diet wise, be sure to include an ample amount of fruits and vegetables into your everyday diet. Additionally, practicing simple oral health habits such as proper brushing, flossing, and routine cleanings will reduce your risk of oral cancer.

A few other factors are gender, age, and exposure to UV light.

How to Diagnose

Early signs of oral cancer can seem like typical problems – such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several weeks or months, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it may be diagnosed as soon as possible

  • Some of the most common oral cancer symptoms and signs include:

  • Persistent mouth sore that does not heal 

  • Persistent mouth pain

  • A lump or thickening in the cheek

  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth

  • A sore throat or persistent feeling that something is caught in the throat

  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing

  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue

  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth

  • Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly

  • Loosening of the teeth

  • Pain in the teeth or jaw

  • Voice changes

  • A lump in the neck

  • Weight loss

  • Persistent bad breath

If any of these symptoms appear or persist for weeks, your doctor may recommend tests to check for oral cancer. Here at Sharma Oral Surgery – we examine each patient and take a biopsy, if necessary, so we can treat the problem correctly and effectively.

Please call our office if you have any questions or concerns, 704-541-6070.