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Signs of Mouth Cancer

by Geri Walton ~ January 3rd, 2009

mouth cancer symptoms, signs of mouth cancer, risk factors, symptoms of mouth cancer, Mouth cancer kills one American every hour, and the American Cancer Society estimates approximately “35,310 new cases (25,310 in men and 10,000 in women) of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer…in the United States in 2008.” Signs of mouth cancer often appear not to be dangerous, and, just because you have symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean you have mouth cancer. However, the best prevention for mouth cancer is early detection because it can be successfully treated 90 percent of the time if caught early.

Signs of Mouth Cancer

Signs of mouth cancer vary, and symptoms can occur in different areas of the mouth. However, mouth cancer  occurs in the floor of the mouth (15 percent of the time), lip (10 to 15 percent of the time), minor salivary glands (10 to 15 percent of the time), tongue (20 to 25 percent of the time), and the remainder are found in the gums, tonsils, or other oral areas.

Spots or patches are one of the most common signs of mouth cancer, and they include:

  • The most common symptom is white spots or patches are known as leukoplakia. About 25 percent of the spots are patches are precancerous or cancerous.
  • Mixed red and white spots or patches are known as erythroleukoplakia. These mixed patches are more likely than white patches to become malignant.
  • Smooth areas or red, raised spots or patches that bleed when scraped are known as erythroplakia, and, about 70 percent of erythroplakias are precancerous or cancerous.

There are also other symptoms, and these include:

  • Changes in the voice
  • Constant bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing 
  • Earache or sore throat that does not go away
  • Frequent mouth bleeding
  • Loose teeth or uncomfortable or ill-fitting dentures
  • Lump or thickening in the cheek, face, gums, jaw, neck, or tongue
  • Sore on the lip, in the mouth, or on the throat that does not heal

Risk Factors

Those who are at an increased risk for oral cancer include people who are eighteen to thirty-nine years old and who are sexually active with HPV 16/18. People at high risk for mouth cancer include people over forty and anyone of any age who uses tobacco. However, the group at the highest risk for mouth cancer include people who have a history of oral cancer or people who are over forty years old, use tobacco, and consume at least 2 ounces of alcohol three times per week.

Rule Out Mouth Cancer

You can rule out mouth cancer when you visit your dentist. Dentists usually visually examine your mouth and throat as part of a routine checkup. However, there is also a new painless procedure that some dentists use to detect mouth cancer early. All you do is rinse with a special solution, and then your dentist examines your mouth using fluorescent light technology, known as ViziLite. 

In either case—whether the examination is by eye or with light technology—if there’s any problem, your dentist can help you determine the next step. If you have any symptoms or signs of mouth cancer, or if you have any concerns, visit your dentist because early detection is key in preventing mouth cancer. If you want to find a ViziLite provider in your area click here.

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