With many diseases, illnesses, or conditions, you can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and by getting plenty of regular exercise. But what else can you do to help prevent the onset of oral cancers? Oral cancer can develop in any part of the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, gums, teeth or tongue.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and the team of oncologists at HOPE Cancer Center wants to remind you how important good oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle are for preventing halitosis (bad breath), tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer.

How can I prevent oral cancer?

Oral cancer is a highly preventable disease and treatable if it’s caught early. Here is a list of things you can do to prevent oral cancer:

  • Avoid all tobacco products
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Stay out of the sun when it is at its strongest (typically between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm)
  • Always use a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30
  • Get vaccinated for HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Perform regular self-examinations
  • Brush and floss at least three times each day
  • Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings 

Common symptoms of oral cancer

Not only is it important to take care of your oral health to avoid dental problems, it’s also important to know the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. When you know what to look for, you know when it’s time to visit your doctor. Here are the most common symptoms of oral cancer:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Unexplained pain, numbness or bleeding
  • Unexplained and sudden tooth mobility
  • Persistent sore(s) or ear pain
  • Soreness in the throat
  • Lump(s)
  • White or red patches inside the mouth

If left untreated, oral cancer can affect your whole body

The early stages of oral cancer can be solely unpleasant because it causes mouth discomfort and pain. If certain types of oral cancer are left untreated, however, they have the potential to spread throughout the body and become life-threatening. One type of oral cancer that can be very dangerous is malignant melanoma because it has a much higher likelihood of spreading to other areas of the body. If you suspect any symptoms of oral cancer, you should see your doctor right away. Early detection and diagnosis give you the best chance of successful treatment.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with a HOPE Cancer Center specialist, call 903.592.6152. We make it a priority to see new patients quickly and offer pharmacy services in-house. We also participate in clinical trials, so you can have access to tomorrow’s treatments today.