Most times we hear of other cancers affecting other parts of the body. We have a high level of awareness going on for breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer, but most people do not know that they can also be predisposed to mouth cancer if the oral cavity is not properly taken care of.
WHO sights oral cavity cancer also known as mouth cancer as one of the most prevalent cancers in the world. According to researchers, the prevalence of oral cancer in Nigeria and Africa in general is not that high. Oral cavity cancer constitutes 2.7% of all cancer cases reported from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, over a six year period. At the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan just 1.2% of all cancer cases reported were oral cavity cancer, and in Maiduguri only about 20 cases were reported per annum. However, this might not be cause for rejoicing as experts believe that the statistics are low because there are not enough dentists in Nigeria.
Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, but it is more prevalent in people over 40, particularly men. Mouth cancer occurs when a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth. It can be on the surface of the tongue, the insides of the cheek, the roof of the mouth, the lips or the gum.
The major causes of oral cavity cancer are:
Smoking or using any other form of tobacco
Drinking alcohol excessively; experts say that those who smoke and drink excessively are more at risk compared to other population at large.
Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV); this virus is also responsible for genital warts.
Some symptoms of mouth cancer include:
Sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal. It does not have to be painful as experts say some painless ulcers in the mouth could also be symptoms of oral cavity cancer. Also, watch out for sores around the face or neck that doesn’t heal especially after 2 weeks.
Swelling or lumps in the mouth
Development of velvety white, red or speckled (white or red) patches in the mouth or on the lining of the tongue.
Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
Unexplained looseness of teeth, or sockets that don’t heal after extraction.
Unexplained and persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue.
Difficulty or pain while chewing or swallowing
Chronic sore throat.
Experts advise that early detection of oral cavity cancer can lead to proper treatment and cure. However, they recommend certain lifestyle habits that can help you avoid mouth cancer.
Visit your dentist regularly for a thorough mouth check-up.
While brushing your teeth constantly check for any changes in your mouth and report any white, red or speckled patches to your dentist.
Maintain a good diet that is rich in vitamin A, C and E. These vitamins provide protection against mouth cancer.
Cut down on smoking and drinking. If you do not smoke, don’t start.
The Oral Health Foundation advises that we should all be mouth aware. Take note of your mouth, the way you take note of your breast and prostate, they are all susceptible to cancer.