Those at Risk for Oral Cancer
Passing certain age thresholds and engaging in certain lifestyle habits can place you at increased
risk for oral cancer. For example, men tend to have higher rates of oral cancers than women.
Here is the short list:
· Patients age 40 and older (95% of all oral cancer cases)
· Patients age 18-39 who use tobacco, are heavy drinkers, or may have a previously diagnosed
oral HPV infection.
If you experience any of the below symptoms lasting more than 7-10 days, please seek the
advice of your doctor. Also, keep in mind that aside from an obviously sore throat, the below
symptoms can present themselves in the absence of pain. Look out for changes that can be
detected on the lips, inside the cheeks, palate, and gum tissue surrounding your teeth and
• Reddish or whitish patches in the mouth
• A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
• A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
• Chronic sore throator hoarseness
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing
If you do not visit the dentist regularly, you could be missing out on the benefits of early cancer
detection. Currently, just over half of all those diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than
five years – a statistic driven by late diagnosis – so please visit your dentist and get an oral
exam at least once a year. If you are considered “high risk,” (see list above) you should be
receiving an oral exam at least every six months, if not more frequently.
Below is a short list of healthy habits you can start doing now, which may reduce your risk.
• Avoid all tobacco products
• Avoid or reduce your consumption of alcohol
• Consume more fruits and vegetables (good for everything, of course)
• Avoid excessive sun exposure that can result in cancer of the lip (using lip balm with an SPF
of at least 30 can be helpful)
• Avoid exposure to environmental hazards (wood dust, formaldehyde, printing chemicals)
• Conduct a self-exam monthly so you can catch any of the symptoms listed above. Use a
small hand-held mirror so you can see the back of your mouth and tongue. If you haven’t been in to see us in a while,
give us a ring at 202-331-1644, and we’ll show you how to perform this exam in
between visits.Oral cancer is serious business. Yet, it can be managed when caught early. So, do the right thing
and visit your dentist regularly, and get that screening.