April is daffodil month, a program of the Canadian Cancer Society dedicated to raising cancer awareness. Oral cancer is a disease resulting from abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. Signs and symptoms of oral cancer: lumps or changes in the texture or color of the mouth tissues, bleeding, numbness, sores that do not heal, or difficulty swallowing. The actual cause of oral cancer is not known but risk factors include: consumption of tobacco products, heavy alcohol consumption, certain strains of HPV, repeated exposure of the lips to the sun, poor diet, and a history of leukoplakia (a thick whitish patch inside the mouth).
Age, genetics and gender can also play a role; people over 45 are most at risk and more men than women develop the disease. The good news is oral cancer can be treated successfully if caught early enough, and your dentist is trained to detect early signs of the disease. To prevent oral cancer, avoid risk factors, be observant of any changes in your mouth, and see your dentist regularly for dental exams.