According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, about 49,750 Americans will get diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer just this year. Of those diagnosed, close to 9,750 will die, and while the post-diagnosis survival rate is slowly on the rise, the number of families still affected by this horrific disease is staggering.
That's why we continue to make it part of our conversation. Of the close to ten thousand people that lose their battle with oral cancer every year, a majority can be attributed to late-stage diagnosis.
Unlike some other forms of cancer, oral cancer can go relatively undetected, which is why it's important to educate yourself about what it is, where it comes from and what you can do to prevent oral oropharyngeal cancer or catch it early on.
The Origin Story
Oral cancer is caused by a DNA mutation that allows cancer cells to grow and divide within a person's lips or mouth. In a person free of the mutation, DNA informs the body to attack and kill any cancerous intruders that show up in the mouth.
The origin of the cancer-causing DNA mutation is still unknown. However, doctors have discovered a list of things that seemingly increase the risk of developing oral cancer. These include but are not limited to:
- Heavy Alcohol Use
- Excessive Sun Exposure
- Tobacco of Any Kind
- Human Papillomavirus or HPV
- Weakened Immune System
Since oral cancer stems from a DNA mutation, there's no sure way to prevent it completely. However, because doctors have discovered a list of possible contributing factors when it comes to oral cancer, they've also come up with a set of guidelines that when followed will help patients live their healthiest, happiest selves all the while taking a stand against mouth disease. Doctors recommend:
- Stopping Use of Tobacco. Smoking or chewing tobacco exposes mouth cells to chemicals that can lead to cancer.
- Take Precaution Before Spending Time in the Sun. Wear a hat, apply sunscreen to your lips and stay in the shade when possible.
- Eating a Variety of Healthy Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and Vegetables are full of vitamins and antioxidants.
- Alcohol Should Be Consumed in Moderation. If you drink, avoid drinking excessively as it irritates oral cells.
- Visit Your Dentist Routinely.
When it comes to oral cancer, being diagnosed early is key. And being diagnosed early becomes