What is Mouth Cancer?

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, occurs when cells in your mouth develop abnormally. When a group of cancer cells grows together, it can destroy nearby tissue. In some cases, cancer can spread to lymph nodes in the neck and beyond.

Here are six quick facts about mouth cancer:

  1. Your mouth has a lining made up of flat squamous cells. This is where oral cancer most commonly starts.
  2. There are many types of oral cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma and salivary gland cancer.
  3. More cases of oral cancer are diagnosed a year than cervical or ovarian cancer in Canada. More deaths from oral cancer occur than from melanoma or cervical cancer.
  4. In 2020 alone, 1,500 Canadians will die from oral cavity cancer.
  5. Oral cancer can be transmitted by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The fastest-rising cases are among sexually active younger Canadians with no other risk factors. One-third of all HPV cancers in Canadians are mouth and throat cancers.
  6. Your dentist and dental hygienist will look for any early signs of cancer, which is another important reason to get regular dental checkups.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Early cancer and the development of precancerous cells may have very subtle symptoms. It is important to stay alert for any change in your mouth area and contact your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Bumps or lumps in your mouth
  • Patches in your mouth
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Earaches that don’t go away and are primarily in one ear
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • A feeling of numbness anywhere on your face or in your mouth
  • Problems with chewing, swallowing, talking or moving any part of your mouth, tongue or jaw
  • Oral pain
  • A hoarseness to your voice that does not go away

While these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have oral cancer, it is worthwhile to speak to a dentist who can evaluate your oral health if you notice any problems. Early detection of mouth cancer can greatly increase the chances of a positive outcome.

How to Avoid Mouth Cancer

There are ways you can reduce your risk of getting oral cancer:

  • Know your family history and share this information with your dental team.
  • Avoid drinking and smoking, especially together.
  • Practice safe sex and get the HPV vaccine if you qualify.
  • Follow proper dental guidelines set by your dentist and dental hygienist.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in whole foods and includes as few processed foods as possible.
  • Limit unprotected time in the sun.
  • Once a month, look inside your mouth using a good light to check for any unusual patches, lumps or other issues that might warrant a trip to the dentist.
  • Make regular visits to your dentist and discuss oral cancer screenings with your dental hygiene team.

Do You Need a Partner in Dental Care?

If you need a dentist that strives to maintain your oral health and help you with cancer screenings, request an appointment with Dental Choice.

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