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Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Cancers of the Head & Neck region can be very difficult to detect in the early stages.  Traditionally, oral cancer has been thought of a disease that affects men over 50 who smoke and drink excessive amounts of alcohol.  Other risk factors include excessive exposure to the sun without SPF lip protection, poor nutrition, a past history of oral cancer, use of betel nut and infections of the Human Papillomavirus.  Because of the increase in HPV-related cancers, newly diagnosed cases in 25-50 year olds is on the rise. Poor oral hygiene, chronic irritation from ill-fitting dentures and a weakened immune system can also increase your chances of developing head & neck cancers.

You are the best advocate for your health. If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, be proactive by being evaluated by a health professional.

1)  White or red patches, sores or blisters in your mouth or on your lips: 

Discolorations inside of your mouth can be very common.  The oral tissues are very susceptible to irritation and trauma from food or teeth.  If you notice a red or white mark in your mouth, take note of the date it was first observed.  Take a digital photo, if possible, to document the location and size. Your oral tissue regenerates quickly, so most sores or colored patches should heal or show improvement within 2 weeks.  If that is not the case, or it continues to grow or spread, seek attention from your Dentist.  You may be referred to an Oral Surgeon for further evaluation.

2)  Bleeding in your mouth, loose teeth or changes in the way your teeth fit together: 

These may be signs of other dental issues such as periodontal disease or infections.  Consult your Dentist to ensure a proper diagnosis.

3)  Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue:
Limited movement of the jaw may be a symptom of joint and muscular problems associated with the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) which is responsible for opening and closing the mouth.  Your Dentist can help determine if your symptoms are caused by joint/muscular issues or something more serious.  Further evaluation by an Oral Surgeon or an "Ears, Nose & Throat doctor"(ENT/Ootolaryngologist) may be recommended.

4)  Persistent sore throat or earache on one side, prolonged hoarseness of your voice, difficulty swallowing, feeling of a lump in your throat or numbness in your lower lip and chin:  

If you notice something unusual that concerns you, pursue an answer.  Early detection of head & neck cancers is critical.
Learn more about performing a self-examination at http://www.sixstepscreening.org/wp-content/uploads/Self-Exam.pdf

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