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April is the Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Normal cells in the body follow an orderly life cycle wherein they grow, divide, and eventually die. When a few abnormal cells show uncontrolled growth, it leads to ‘Cancer’. A major public health problem worldwide is Oral Cancer, which includes cancers of the soft tissues of the mouth (lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat). Awareness regarding oral cancer, the sixth most common cancer in the world, is important because it can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. The consumption of tobacco can get the main reason for the rise in oral cancers. If you know of smokers or friends and family consuming smokeless tobacco, read on to know more about oral cancer.

Who is at risk to develop oral cancer?

Tobacco use of any kind (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco) and heavy alcohol use are major risk factors to develop oral cancers. However, if you thought you aren’t at risk of developing oral cancer if you haven’t been drinking, smoking, or chewing tobacco, you are wrong.

Recent statistics show that 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol in moderation.

The following reasons are responsible for oral cancer:

  1. A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
  2. Excessive sun exposure to your lips 
  3. A weakened immune system 
  4. Chronic trauma, from sharp teeth, restorations, or dentures

How does oral cancer present itself?

Most mouth cancers begin in squamous cells, which are flat cells that cover your mouth, tongue, and lips. Any abnormal growth in these cells signals trouble. Oral cancer may present itself as:

  1. A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  2. A white or red patch or a combination of both white and red patch in the mouth
  3. A growth or lump inside your mouth
  4. Mouth pain
  5. Ear pain
  6. Difficult or painful swallowing

How is oral cancer diagnosed?

Patients Dental checkup

Your dentist can conduct an oral cancer screening exam during your regular dental care visit by feeling for any lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. An important point to note here is that your dentist can also diagnose precancerous conditions (A condition or lesion involving abnormal cells which are associated with an increased risk of developing into cancer). Your dentist might also ask for a biopsy of a suspicious-looking area. 

How is oral cancer treated?

The treatment of oral cancer varies depending upon the stage of cancer when it is diagnosed. This includes surgery to remove the cancerous growth, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Pro-tips to prevent oral cancer from the best dentists in Mumbai

  1. Quit tobacco as early as possible. If you use tobacco, stop. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Tobacco use in any form (smoked or chewed), exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.
  1. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Chronic excessive alcohol constantly irritates the cells in your mouth, making them more vulnerable to mouth cancer.
  1. Having a well- balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduction of 40–50 percent in the risk of oral cancer 
  1. Limit your exposure to the sun and use sunscreen lotion on the lips. 
  1. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or yoga 5 days a week. Exercise can work wonders for your overall health.
  1. Maintain good oral hygiene.

The Takeaway

Every hour an individual succumbs to oral cancer. Early diagnosis increases the survival rate manifold. 

Therefore, if you have never had an oral cancer examination, there is no better time to schedule one during Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April. 

Schedule an appointment at the best dental hospital in Mumbai at the earliest.

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