Mouth cancer (oral cancer) develops in the tissues of the mouth or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). Most of the more than 41,000 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed each year in the United States are in people who are older than 60, according to the National Cancer Institute, but it can affect younger individuals.
Risk factors for mouth cancer include
• Tobacco use. The risk is greater among people who smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes or who use chewing tobacco, dipping snuff, bidis or kreteks. Seventy-five percent of cases of mouth cancer occur in individuals who smoke, drink alcohol or both.
• Alcohol use. Oral cancer is more common in people who drink alcohol than among those who do not.
• Sun exposure. The lips can develop cancer from sun exposure, and a combination of smoking and the sun increases the risk.
• Head and neck cancer history. Anyone with a history of these cancers has a greater chance of developing mouth cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have any of the following signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, you should see your doctor or dentist as soon as possible. Often these signs and symptoms indicate an infection or another oral health problem rather than cancer, but they should be checked. Dr. Brei regularly performs mouth cancer screenings.
• Red, white or red and white patches inside the mouth or on the lips
• Bleeding in the mouth
• Loose teeth
• Discomfort or pain when swallowing
• A sore in the mouth or on the lip that will not heal
• Difficulty wearing dentures
• Lump in the neck
Treatment of mouth cancer can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery to remove the tumor or a combination of these options. Pain medication also may be necessary as well as drugs to relieve side effects from treatment such as dry mouth, infection, mouth ulcers and inflammation.
Mouth cancer that is detected early can be treated more effectively. Be sure to get a mouth cancer screening during your next dental visit. If you haven’t seen a dentist in a while, give Tucson dentist Dr. Robert Brei a call at 520-325-9000 to schedule your next appointment.