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To Reduce Oral Cancer Risks

To Reduce Oral Cancer Risks


Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya


We should not assume that it is only people with certain questionable habits are at risk of having oral cancer.  It is important to understand that some develop oral cancer without any certain questionable habits.  You may even know people who have had healthy lifestyles as well as abusive habits suffered from oral cancer.

The term oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat (the pharynx).  When you visit your dentist, do not limit your discussion with the dentist just to teeth.  In fact, if you disclose your concerns of your mouth, your dentist may be able to detect problematic situations (if any) related to oral cancer.

Studies indicate that the following will put someone at risk for oral cancer:

• cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol use or combination 

• betel nut chewing 

• sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (especially HPV 16) infection 

• sun exposure to lips 

• age over 40

• diet low in fruits and vegetables

When detected early, oral cancers can be treated more successfully.  Possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer are: 

• bleeding or pain in the lip or in the mouth 

• a sore that does not heal on the lip or in the mouth 

• irritation, lump or thick patch in the mouth, lip, or throat 

• white or red patch in the mouth 

• numbness in the tongue or other areas of the mouth 

• problems in speaking clearly 

• difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue 

• difficulty in chewing or swallowing 

• feeling that something is caught in the throat 

• swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable 

Often, symptoms like those listed above do not necessarily mean cancer.  However, if you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should see a dentist for a painless oral cancer exam that takes only a few minutes. 

Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya, BDS (Peradeniya), DMD (UBC), is a dentist who practices in New Westminster & Surrey.  She is a Clinical Instructor at the UBC and was a Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya. 

Sri Lanka Times (BC, Canada), September 2012

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