Malice in Your Mouth: Oral Cancer

We are all familiar with cancer and its common types, such as breast cancer and leukemia. What about mouth or oral cancer? According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the mouth and the back of the throat. It can occur anywhere in the mouth, from the gums to the salivary glands.

Medical News Today cites that roughly 34,000 Americans contract oral cancer per year, while 8,000 succumb to the disease annually. As such, it is important to fully understand the early signs, symptoms, and risks associated with this disease.

Early Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms that point to the possibility of oral cancer. Both Medical News Today and the NIDCR describe a list of early signs, some of which include the following:

  • Abnormal swelling in the mouth or jaw that does not recede after several weeks
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Ulcers, sores, or lumps that do not go away on their own
  • The constant feeling that something is lodged in your throat
  • Ear pain that is not accompanied by loss of hearing
  • Head or neck pain that will not recede on its own

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek out a doctor or dentist as soon as possible. These experienced medical professionals will be able to detect early signs of cancer. The earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and remove.


Oral Cancer Risks

Most of the time, this cancer does not spontaneously sprout up in your mouth. Often, there are a number of risks that are linked to the development of this cancer. Medical News Today and NIDCR have compiled a list of risks that have been shown to be linked to development of oral cancer:

  • Chewing and smoking tobacco. Many people are aware of the link between tobacco and oral cancer. Why is it so harmful? Tobacco smoke, according to, contains over 7000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer. This is the most common cause of mouth cancer.
  • Smoking cigarettes. According to Medical News Today, individuals who smoke 40 cigarettes are 5 times more likely to develop cancer than nonsmokers.
  • HPV. The human sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus, has been shown to contribute to the development of oral cancer.
  • Alcohol. While light or moderate drinking is not severely detrimental to your dental health, heavy or obsessive drinking is linked to cancer growth.
  • Sun exposure. Similar to skin cancer, oral cancer can develop on your outer lips if they are constantly exposed to the sun for long periods of time, especially if no proper protection (like protective lip balm) is used.

Want to know more about this disease? Are you seeking an examination performed by an experienced dentist? Your friends at Greenspoint Dental are here to help. For more information, contact our offices in Houston today.