There are so many reasons to celebrate April this year, like the return of spring and Easter, to name just two. But there’s another excellent reason to celebrate April: it happens to be oral cancer awareness month. If you’re wondering why this is something to celebrate, we can provide you with one very good reason. Although oral cancer can be a devastating illness, it can also usually be easily treated if it’s diagnosed and caught in the very early stages. You can significantly lower your risk for developing this disease by altering your own personal habits, and by visiting your dentist on a regular basis for oral cancer screening exams. You may have the early stages of some types of oral cancer without even knowing it, but there are some symptoms that you should be aware of, including:
- A sore on the mouth or lips that doesn’t heal
- Bleeding inside the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump in the neck
- Persistent earaches
- Numbness in the chin and/or lower lip
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your dentist or doctor and schedule an appointment. Unfortunately, many people don’t know about the dangers of oral cancer, not to mention to relatively easy steps they can take to lower their risks. As a result, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 53,000 people in the US will develop oral cancer in the coming year, and over 10,000 will succumb to the disease. Those are pretty unsettling statistics, but now for the good news – there are some proactive steps you can take to lower your risk for developing this condition.
While some forms of the disease are due to a family or personal history of oral cancer or being infected with the human papillomavirus, there are also habits that can increase your risk for developing this condition. Here are some of those habits you should avoid:
- Chewing tobacco
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Sun exposure
- A diet high in monounsaturated fat, and red or processed meat
- Betel nut chewing
If you believe that you may be at higher risk of developing oral cancer, talk to your dentist or doctor. He or she can help you to make some positive changes in your lifestyle that will help to lower your risk. And remember that oral cancer is always much easier to treat if it’s caught in the very early stages, so see your dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings.
An illness that is treatable and, best of all, preventable – now that’s something to celebrate!