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Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Steps for Prevention

Closeup of a dentist wearing blue gloves and a blue mask as she palpates a patient's neck for lumps during an oral cancer screening

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month! Oral cancer, which makes up about 3% of the diagnosed cases of cancer each year, can develop anywhere in your mouth. Symptoms include lumps, swelling, sores, and white or red patches inside your mouth and throat or on your lips. While oral cancer isn’t 100% preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  1. Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco
  2. There are no health benefits to smoking or tobacco use. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, cigars, vapes, and chewing tobacco significantly increase your risk of developing lip, gum, cheek, throat, and esophagus cancer. According to the CDC, 5-10 years after you quit smoking your added cancer risk can drop by half. The longer you go without smoking, the more your risk decreases!

  3. Avoid or Limit Alcohol
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer. It could be because alcohol damages your mouth and throat cells. Having more than 21 standard drinks per week is considered alcohol abuse. You can reduce your cancer risk by cutting back on or avoiding alcohol entirely.

  5. Wear Sunscreen
  6. UV exposure damages your cells, which raises your cancer risk. You can protect yourself by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Don’t forget to also wear lip balm with SPF. Apply frequently since lip balm comes off easily. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 AM to 4 PM, even in the winter, so either stay inside during these hours or wear ample protection when you’re outside.

  7. Regularly Visit Your Dentist
  8. Fortunately, oral cancer is very treatable when caught early. Your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening during your routine cleaning and exam. They’ll check every part of your mouth for patches, lumps, or anything else unusual. If you’ve been experiencing pain, frequent sores, or swelling, please let your dentist know. Keeping up with regular dental cleanings is also an important preventive step because poor oral hygiene can increase your cancer risk.

Oral Cancer Screenings at CarolinasDentist

Oral cancer screenings are quick and painless at CarolinasDentist. If we find anything unusual, we may recommend further testing or a follow-up appointment to see if the problem has resolved itself.

Lower your cancer risk by not smoking or drinking alcohol, always wearing sunscreen, and taking good care of your oral health. If you have questions for us or would like to schedule an appointment at one of our many locations, please contact us today!

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