Oral cancer, while relatively rare, can have severe consequences if not caught in its early stages. For example, oral cancer can cause painful swallowing, unexplained weight loss, or even death. Being aware of the signs and symptoms is crucial to catching it in the early stages. There are several steps you can take if you notice any concerning changes in your oral health.
What is Oral Cancer?
Understanding the enemy is the first step in the battle. Oral cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat. Tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain strains of HPV are among the risk factors. However, there are signs that can alert you to danger.
Persistent Mouth Sores
Your body communicates through signs. If you notice sores or ulcers in your mouth that don’t heal within two weeks, it’s time to take notice. Persistent sores can be indicative of underlying issues, including oral cancer.
Unexplained Red or White Patches
The colors of your mouth can reveal a lot. For example, unexplained red or white patches on the tongue, gums, or lining of the mouth may signal abnormal cell growth. Regular self-exams in front of a mirror can help you catch these changes early.
Changes in Voice
Your voice can also be a powerful indicator. Hoarseness or a persistent change in your voice quality could be linked to oral cancer. If you notice such changes without an apparent cause, it’s time to consult your dentist or healthcare professional.
Difficulty Swallowing or Chewing
Difficulty swallowing may be more than just a passing issue. Trouble with swallowing or chewing, especially if it persists, should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider. These difficulties could also be related to oral cancer affecting the throat or mouth.
Persistent Sore Throat
Don’t ignore a sore throat that lingers. While common colds can cause temporary throat discomfort, persistent sore throats warrant investigation. This is especially true without other cold symptoms. It could also be a sign of an underlying issue, such as oral cancer.
Numbness or Pain
Pain and numbness are your body’s way of sounding an alarm. You shouldn’t dismiss persistent pain or numbness in the mouth, face, or neck. These sensations also indicate that you may have nerves involved.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Changes in weight can indicate systemic issues. If you experience unexplained weight loss without changes to your diet or exercise routine, it’s crucial to look for the underlying cause. Oral cancer can affect your ability to eat, leading to weight loss.
What to Do
If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to take action. Therefore, schedule an appointment with your dentist or healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough examination, discuss your symptoms, and determine whether further tests, such as a biopsy, are necessary.
Knowledge is power. Perform regular exams of your mouth, tongue, and throat. Familiarize yourself with the normal appearance of these areas. This should make it easier to detect any changes. Early detection can also improve the chances of successful treatment.