Usually, people believe that oral cancer happens to one who uses tobacco or consumes too much alcohol. That is not the case because about 25 percent of the people with no risk factors develop this cancer. So, it is vital to take care of your oral health. It means that you should go for regular screenings with your dentist. You should also be aware of all the risk factors. Adopt all the preventive steps to avoid getting oral cancers.
Risk factors for oral cancer
Some of the risk factors are:
- You are older than 55
- You have a habit of chewing tobacco
- Consume alcohol in excess
- Excessive exposure to sunlight or UV rays
- Have infections like HPV(human papillomavirus)
- Weak immune system or use medications that suppress the immune system
- Skin diseases like lichen planus, graft-versus-host disease, and certain blood conditions
Ways to prevent oral cancer
You should never wait for the symptoms to appear. Always for regular screening to ensure that this cancer doesn’t go undetected till the advanced stages. Apart from screenings, you should take a few preventive measures to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. We will discuss some of the crucial ways here.
Refrain from chewing tobacco
Tobacco has a direct role in getting oral cancer. Whether you chew, snuff or take smokeless tobacco, all the ways of tobacco intake are unhealthy. You cannot use tobacco in a healthy way, or without harming your mouth tissues. Quitting tobacco can reduce the risk of oral cancer significantly. It has a lot of health benefits.
Protect yourself from the sun
Staying in the sun for a long time can increase the chance of getting oral cancer, just like skin cancer. So, use sun protection gears or lotion if you have to stay in the sun for long. Apply lip balm of SPF 15 on your lips and wear a hat to protect your face and head. You may have to apply lip balms once again if you or drink something. Try to stay indoors when the sun rays are straight i.e., in the afternoon. Don’t use the tanning beds.
Go for regular screenings
You should visit your dentist regularly. They can identify and detect the disease in the early stages. When you go through routine checkups, your dentist can see or catch any unusual signs in your mouth. You can also discuss any symptoms with your dentist to rule out cancer.
HPV is one of the reasons for oral cancers, especially happening at the back of the mouth. So, you should get vaccinated against this virus before starting your sex life. Vaccination is the best way to prevent any kinds of HPV infections. But it works only if you are vaccinated before becoming sexually active. If you have not taken vaccination, you can reduce the chances of this infection by practicing safe sex and limiting the number of sexual partners.
Limit your alcohol consumption
Putting a limit on alcohol can reduce the risk of this disease. Try not to drink too much alcohol but drink only in moderation. Alcohol can bring unwanted changes in your body which can increase your risk for this cancer.
Smoking is not good for your oral health. If you quit smoking, you can reduce the risk of many types of cancer. Any type of smoking like pipes, cigarettes, cigars, etc puts at an increased risk of this cancer. On the other hand, if you are thinking of starting smoking, then don’t. Even if you have smoked for years, quitting smoking will give you several health benefits.
Another thing to consider is second-hand smoking which is worse than smoking itself. Try to avoid second-hand smoking if you can.
Do monthly self-examination of your mouth
Just stand in front of the mirror and look closely. If you see something suspicious, consult your dentist. You should look for ulcers, redness, or white patches. Generally, these symptoms should go away in 3 weeks. If they last longer, talk to your doctor immediately.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In fact, anti-oxidants are the natural cancer fighters and help to prevent many types of cancer. It will also boost your immune system and reduce the chances of infections. Carrots, brussels sprouts, and squash are great for oral health.
You can be prudent to preserve the goodness of the fruits and vegetables while cooking. Do not overcook them. Cook till they are tender to get the best of vegetables and fruits. Try to eat them raw if you can. If you cook oil at a very high temperature, it can form a substance that can cause cancer. So, avoid frying your vegetables. Instead, try slow cooking at low temperatures. Apart from frying, go for other ways of cooking like steaming, broiling, boiling, or baking to enjoy your food.
Symptoms of oral cancer:
some of the common symptoms of oral cancers are:
- A mouth ulcer that does not heal
- Bleeding in the mouth that lasts for more than a week
- Mouth and throat lumps grow slowly
- Mouth pain lasting more than two weeks
- Dramatic changes in voice, especially for smokers
- Persistent ear pain in both ears
- Numbness in the lower lip and chin
If you have one or more of the above, consult your dentist. If oral cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, it can be treated easily. So, you watch these symptoms and don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. Be aware of the risk factors and try to take all the preventive measures to reduce your risks.