Am I at Risk of Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer can be life-threatening. Fortunately, early detection methods have significantly improved over the years. This allows our dentists to catch the disease early on and help our patients get the treatment they need. oral cancer treatment knoxville tn

The two biggest risk factors of oral cancer are tobacco use and alcohol abuse. It results from mutations in your DNA, which leads to symptoms such as cancerous lumps, sores, and ulcers in your mouth. At My Family Dentistry, we use a revolutionary screening method to spot these anomalies to help you get the treatment that you need.

Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

Risk factors for cancer such as your race or age can’t be changed. On the other hand, risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and diet can be altered.

Tobacco Use

Smoking and other forms of tobacco use are some of the leading risk factors for oral cancer, as well as many other forms of cancer. Tobacco can increase your chances of developing cancer regardless of whether you smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars.

Smoking can lead to mouth cancer as well as many other types of cancer, including:

  • Lung
  • Kidney
  • Larynx
  • Esophagus
  • Bladder

Smoking a pipe has been linked to cancer found in the lips due to the stem touching the skin. 

Even smokeless tobacco products such as dip or snuff can greatly increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Not only that, but regular usage can lead to easily preventable oral health problems such as gum disease, bone deterioration in the jaw, and tooth loss. 

Those who have been previously diagnosed with mouth-related cancer should quit using tobacco products immediately. Failure to do so can lead to new cancers, even if your previous case appears to have been cured.

Alcohol Abuse

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, alcohol abuse is the second leading risk factor for oral cancer. Alcohol abuse is defined as “having more than 21 standard drinks in one week.” It’s okay to have a couple of drinks now and again; however, activities such as binge drinking can greatly increase your chances of developing the disease. 

Some researchers suspect that tobacco and alcohol work together to increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. As the Oral Cancer Foundation puts it:

The dehydrating effect of alcohol on cell walls enhances the ability of tobacco carcinogens to permeate mouth tissues; additionally, nutritional deficiencies associated with heavy drinking can lower the body’s natural ability to use antioxidants to prevent the formation of cancers.

Having certain risk factors for oral cancer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll develop the disease. Conversely, you can still develop the disease without having risk factors. To discuss your risk of developing mouth cancer, schedule an appointment with our dentists today.

What Causes Mouth Cancer?

Mouth cancers are the result of mutations in DNA. These mutations cause the cells to continue forming and dividing, causing the healthy cells to die. As these mutated mouth cells grow in number, they can cause a tumor to form. Without treatment, you run the risk of these cancerous cells spreading to other parts of the body such as the neck and head.

Oral cancer usually begins in squamous cells. These are thin, flat cells that line the inside of your mouth and lips. Experts aren’t sure why, but the majority of mutations in mouth cells occur in the squamous cells. 

The cause of oral cancer varies. 75% of people aged 50 and over develop it because of smoking. On the other hand, new research has found that younger people can develop it due to HPV16, a form of the human papillomavirus.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The symptoms of oral cancer can manifest themselves in a few different ways. They can initially appear as seemingly benign as an ulcer or even white plaque. However, the clearest indicator of mouth cancer is a lump, sore, or ulcer located in the mouth. They tend to be pale in color but can also be dark or discolored.

These abnormalities are usually painless at first, but over time you may notice pain or a burning sensation as the tumor becomes more developed. But these aren’t the only warning signs of oral cancer. Be on the lookout for:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Weight loss can be another symptom of mouth cancer. This is usually the result of the symptoms listed above interfering with your ability to chew or swallow comfortably.

Oral Cancer Screening in Knoxville, TN 

We take oral cancer very seriously at My Family Dentistry. One American dies every hour from the disease and the fatality rate has remained consistent for the last 40 years. That’s why we focus so much on the early detection of mouth cancer. Using modern detection techniques, dentists are able to cure around 90% of cases.

The two biggest risk factors for oral cancer are smoking and alcohol abuse. This leads to mutations in your cells resulting in symptoms such as ulcers, discoloration of the skin, and pain when chewing and swallowing. We’re dedicated to the early detection of mouth cancer and use the Vizilite system to screen for cases in our patients.

Are you concerned about your risk of developing oral cancer? Schedule an appointment today for your cutting-edge screening!

My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.

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