According to the National Cancer Institute, at least 30,000 Americans are being diagnosed with oral cancer every year. More men (21,000) are diagnosed with this condition than women (9,000). In terms of the age, most are in their senior years or 60 years old and above. With its increasing number over the years, it is necessary to know some vital things about oral cancer.

What is oral cancer?

Firstly, people need to know what oral cancer is. Generally, oral or mouth cancer is the type of cancer that develops in any or some parts of the mouth. It may occur in the oral cavity (mouth, lips and gums) or even in the oropharynx (throat).

What are its possible causes?

There are various triggers why a person may develop oral cancer. Some of these include the following:
Tobacco and alcohol consumption – most of the people with oral cancer are cigarette smokers or heavy alcohol consumers. The consumption of both increases the chance of having the condition.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – studies established the direct correlation of having HPV, specifically HPV 16 type, with oral cancer.
Age – the risk in having oral cancer increases as a person gets old. Statistics show that most of the cases of oral cancer occur in people who are 40 years old and above.
Sun exposure – extreme sun exposure may cause cancer of the lips.
Diet – the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research state that a person who is not taking enough fruits and vegetables have a high chance of developing oral cancer.

What are the signs?

Signs and symptoms may vary, depending on the exposure of the person from the possible causes mentioned above. Nevertheless, among the most common signs of oral cancer are:

  • Soring and irritating feeling in the mouth, lips or throat.
  • A white or red thick lump patch in the mouth.
  • A certain feeling that there is something stuck in the throat.
  • Difficulty in swallowing or chewing.
  • Difficulty in moving the tongue or jaw.
  • Numbness of some areas of the mouth, especially the tongue.
  • Swelling of jaw, this could lose the fitting of the dentures and cause discomfort.
  • Pain in one ear.

Most of the times, having the above signs does not automatically mean that the person has oral cancer. There are times when it is just because of infection or other problems that result to similar symptoms. However, if a person is having any of the said symptoms, it is advised to immediately consult a dentist or doctor.
It is imperative to detect symptoms of oral cancer as early as possible; since treatment could be more successful when administered on the earliest onset of oral cancer.

How can it be treated or prevented?

Addressing the causes mentioned above are the key ways to prevent oral cancer from developing. In terms of its treatment, the patient needs to be thoroughly diagnosed first. Once the cancer is confirmed to be present and its stage has been identified, dental practitioners and doctors will recommend the best solution. Among the choices include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.