Oral cancer refers to a cancerous growth anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
It can show up as white patches of new skin growth. Oral cancer can also show up as a red sore that won't heal no matter what you do. Some who develop oral cancer develop a lump or a mass.
Oral cancer may or may not be painful. The tissue inside the mouth generally heals pretty quickly, so if you have a canker sore that just won't heal, you will need to get it checked. Because oral cancer can impact the eustachian tubes, one of the curious symptoms of oral cancer is ear pain. Finally, oral cancer can lead to problems swallowing if the mass gets too big, gets in the way of chewing, or if chewing is painful and you try to swallow items that are not fully broken down.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancers
Oral cancer can show up as a white growth on the soft tissues, including the tongue and the lining of the cheek. Because healthy tissue in this region is highly oxygenated, it heals quite quickly. If you notice any sores or patches that don't clear up after two weeks, you will want to make an appointment with your dentist to get the area checked out.In addition to the area around the tongue and teeth, oral cancer can impact
- The space above the vocal folds, leading to a constant feeling of needing to clear your throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- A change in your bite
To keep an eye on what is "normal" and what isn't, study the inside of your mouth, the sides of your tongue, and the lining of your cheeks. You may not be able to stick out your tongue and say "ahhh" and note anything inside your own throat, but if you suddenly find yourself choking on beverages or having to chew longer than previously to swallow, there may be a growth down inside the mouth.
When caught early, oral cancer is highly survivable. That being said, it can spread if left untreated. Treating oral cancer can include
- Surgery to remove the cancer
- Surgery to reconstruct after tumor removal
Targeted drug therapy to address oral cancers is currently available and immunotherapy can also help to boost your immune symptoms while you fight oral cancer.
To protect yourself from developing oral cancer, do your best to
- Avoid smoking and similar products
- Drink responsibly and avoid binge drinking
- Avoid sunlight as lip cancer risk goes up with UV damage
- Eat a balanced diet
A diet high in antioxidants can also help you fight oral cancer and reduce your risk of developing it. It is possible to develop oral cancer even if you don't smoke or drink to excess, so getting any sores or odd patches checked out quickly is critical.
Oral cancer can impact you from the lip to the throat and may even cause ear pain. Study your mouth in the mirror and get any changes checked out quickly.