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David M. Rizk, DDS

Understanding Oral Cancer

added on: May 11, 2016
oral cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States with about 35,000 cases diagnosed every year. Of those, about 8,000 will lose their lives to this life-threatening condition. At my El Paso dental office, we want all of our patients to understand the deadly disease so they can work to avoid it or recognize when there is a problem.

Risk Factors

Knowing the risk factors and who is more likely to develop oral cancer is the first step in understanding whether you may be at increased risk.

  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women. In fact, their risk is about double that of their female counterparts.
  • Age: On average, most people are diagnosed at 62, and the majority of oral cancer patients are over 55.
  • Sun Exposure: Instances of oral cancer is increased in those who spend a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen.
  • Tobacco Use: Nearly 80% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers or use smokeless tobacco. Smoking often leads to throat or mouth cancer, and smokeless tobacco usually results in gum, cheek, or lip cancer.
  • Alcohol: Heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. In fact, nearly 70% of all those diagnosed use alcohol often. And if you’re a drinker and smoker, your risk may be as high as 100%.

Even if you don’t fall into these risk categories, you can still develop oral cancer.

Signs & Symptoms

Being able to recognize a potential problem and getting it checked out quickly can increase survival rate. Early detection is key to beating the cancer, so if you notice any of the following symptoms, see your dentist in El Paso as soon as possible.

  • A chronic sore that doesn’t go away
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • A lump on the cheek or tongue
  • Voice changes

Prevention

While we can’t change our gender or age, we can take steps to limit our exposure to the lifestyle risk factors. Besides that, maintaining regular checkups with your dentist is key to catching any problems early. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a dentist, give my El Paso dental office a call to schedule an appointment today. It could save your life.

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