According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 39,500 people will be diagnosed with oropharyngeal or oral cavity cancer in 2015. The threat of oral cancer is serious and you might assume that because you and your family aren't smokers, you are safe. However, even if you don't smoke or live a healthy lifestyle, it doesn't mean you're still not at risk for developing oral cancer. Here are a few simple tips and lifestyle changes that can help greatly reduce the risk the risk of oral cancer:
Cut Down on Sun Exposure
If you're like most parents, you don't allow your kids enjoy a day at the beach or in the backyard during summer without applying a layer of sunscreen to their arms, legs and face. However, did you know there is another critical area you're probably overlooking: your child's lips.
Lip cancer is a common form of oral cancer, and it is one form of cancer that can be easily prevented when you take the right precautions. Here are a few simple ways to protect you and your family from this often overlooked type of oral cancer:
- Try to limit you or your family's exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. According to the Sun Safety Alliance, these are the sun's "peak" hours when exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, light is the greatest.
- If you have to be in the sun, wear a hat that provides your face and mouth with plenty of shade.
- Encourage all of your family members to wear a lip balm that contains an SPF, or sun protection factor, of at least 15. Reapply the lip balm several times throughout the day to get the most protection possible.
It is also vital to recognize the early warning signs of lip cancer. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, these include a sore on the lip or mouth that doesn't heal properly, mouth pain that doesn't go away and even a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to swallow.
The Importance of Maintaining Your Oral Hygiene
In an effort to keep your teeth white and breath fresh, you take your oral hygiene very seriously. However, did you also realize that brushing and flossing at least twice-a-day and visiting your dentist twice-a-year can also help reduce your risk of developing oral cancer?
When you don't brush, floss and use mouthwash on a regular basis, bacteria is allowed to grow in your mouth unchecked. Unfortunately, this can create a nasty infection that may one day to the formation of oral cancer. This is one possible connection, but there is another way that neglecting your biyearly dental visits can be even more devastating.
In addition to making sure you don't have any cavities, a dentist at a clinic like Village Family Dental also looks for the early signs that put you at risk for developing oral cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include
- White patches on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Stiffness and pain in your jaw, cheek, tongue or gums
Perform a Monthly Self Exam
Finally, there is another simple thing you can do to protect yourself from developing mouth cancer, and it only takes a few minutes each month: perform a self exam.
All you'll need to examine your mouth is a bright light and a small mirror. Open your mouth and use the small mirror to examine every nook and cranny. Next, take your clean finger and examine every inch of your mouth, including the inside of your cheeks and below your tongue.
While performing the exam, look and feel for anything that is out of the ordinary, such as a lump, bump or a discoloration. If you notice anything strange, don't hesitate to contact your dentist immediately.
The risk of oral cancer is real, and many individuals will unfortunately be diagnosed with this devastating disease this year. Through the combination of proper oral hygiene, self exams and staying out of the sun, you can help reduce the risk of you or a family member developing oral cancer.