April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
Oral cancer, or cancer of the mouth, is a deadly disease.
With screening and prevention measures, however, one can reduce the chances of getting oral cancer or – if already present – get out ahead of it.
The Deadly & Disturbing Facts About Oral Cancer
It can be said that oral and pharyngeal cancer kills one person nearly every hour.
A person diagnosed with cancer of the mouth and upper throat has a 60% chance of living longer than five years.
Oral cancer (a.k.a. Mouth Cancer or Oral Pharyngeal Cancer) affects the:
- Inner cheeks
- Upper throat
- Roof of the mouth
- Floor of the mouth
- Mouth sore that does not heal
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- White or red patch in mouth
- Swallowing difficulty
- Lump or growth in mouth
- Loose teeth
Those who survive oral cancer also endure long-term issues, e.g. difficulties with everyday things we take for granted like eating and speaking. Facial disfigurement is another effect of oral cancer.
For these reasons and many others, it is important to get screened for oral cancer.
As dental professionals, we conduct oral cancer screenings at Ottawa South Denture Clinic, and highly encourage our patients to have an oral cancer screening at their earliest convenience.
Factors Contributing to Oral Cancer
Like many other types of cancer, oral cancer or cancer of the mouth is associated with a number of risk factors. These include:
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
- Sun / UV exposure
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Compromised immune system
It’s impossible, of course, to avoid genetic factors – and immune system issues can be mitigated but not eliminated. But both of these are important to be aware of, so that oral cancer screening can be conducted properly, and a risk assessment profile created.
The other factors on this list are all within one’s control.
Exposure to the sun is important for vitamin D. Just like fire (which the sun is literally composed of), exposure to sunlight and UV rays is to be taken in moderation. Use SPF lip balm when outside for prolonged periods (and not just down south or in the tropics but here in Ottawa, too).
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and is known to be a potential precursor for oral cancer.
Tobacco use is a higher risk for oral cancer. This is something which we as oral health professionals strongly advise against. If you are a smoker (including cigarettes, cigars or pipes but also vaping) or you chew tobacco, we urge you to quit.
Alcohol consumption is also a risk factor associated with oral cancer. We’re not necessarily saying don’t drink at all, but again moderation is the key. Alcohol abuse is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer.
Diet can also be a risk factor for oral cancer. The following are recommended to help in lowering the risk of oral cancer (as well as during & after oral cancer treatment):
- Fruits (particularly papaya, cantaloupe, orange, grapefruit & melon)
- Vegetables (especially carrots, pumpkin, collard greens, squash, brussel sprouts, leafy greens)
- Eat more produce raw or gently cooked
- Avoid processed meats (and most processed foods, in fact)
While it’s impossible to prevent oral cancer completely, there are steps within our control that we can all take to lower the risks. Getting an oral cancer screening and creating a risk assessment profile are also important.
Oral Screenings Are Highly Beneficial
As we’ve been saying, an oral cancer screening is a vital step in helping prevent or lower the risk of oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings can also help identify oral cancer in earlier stages – or precursors for oral cancer – giving you more time to treat it with better probability for favourable results.
At Ottawa South Denture Clinic, we conduct oral cancer screenings in Ottawa.
April 2020, which was to have been a big campaign for oral cancer screening, finds us in a different situation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We can, however, conduct mobile denture services which could include an oral cancer screening.
To make an appointment for an oral cancer screening in Ottawa, or to discuss more with us, contact Ottawa South Denture Clinic today.