Oral Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people die completely needlessly from oral cancer. Oral cancer is almost always operable, given that it is spotted while still in its early stages, before metastasis takes place (metastasis in cancers means the spread of cancerous cells to other parts of the body). Despite this fact, oral cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of death via cancer, mostly because it occurs so frequently. 

Causes Of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer occurs 75% of the time in smokers. Those who, aside from smoking, also are heavy alcohol users are at an increased risk in contracting the disease. Environmental factors may also be to blame, including sun exposure and what sort of contaminants are present in the drinking water, for instance, if an industrial complex is located nearby that dumps industrial wastes into the drinking water, which frequently is the case, oral cancer rates will usually increase in the area in question. There is also a link between HPV and contracting oral cancer, but the exact causation is still the subject of dispute and scientific research. 

Problems of identification

One of the reasons why oral cancer causes so much death is that it is hard to diagnose the illness early on. The cancer looks like a slight discoloration or a cold sore in the first few months of its existence. It may just be a small bump in the mouth or on the gums. This is probably the reasons why people just do not notice it until it grows bigger, and becomes more difficult (sometimes impossible) to operate or has already metastasized. 


Given the difficulty in finding and identifying oral cancers and precancers, it is imperative that if you are experiencing any of the risk factors (smoking, drinking alcohol, contaminated drinking water, lots of sun exposure), and you have a lesion or bump or discoloration that does not go away on its own in 2 weeks, go and see a dentist. A dentist will be able to tell the difference between a regular lesion and a precancerous one. If you do not have an appointment with a dentist and it would take some time for you to get one, try seeing an oncologist.

The prevention of oral cancer is most effective if you quit smoking or smokeless tobacco altogether. Limiting alcohol consumption can also help, but it is not enough if you continue to smoke or chew tobacco. Eating more fruits and vegetables also seems to have a beneficial effect, although the precise causes and preventative qualities of fruits and veggies is still being researched by oncologists and nutritionists alike.