Lack of information about oral cancer in the population can lead to late detection of the disease, which in turn reduces the chances of successful treatment. It is essential not to neglect our oral health and go for regular dental check-ups. In this article, we will talk about the importance of self-examination and how to perform it, as well as the risk factors associated with oral cancer.
Self-examination: key to early detection
The General Council of Dentists of Spain highlights the importance of self-examination as one of the most effective tools for early detection of oral cancer. This may contribute to reducing the number of cases diagnosed in advanced stages (III and IV).
"Almost 50% of oral cancers are diagnosed late, which means that the average survival can be around 5 years, depending on the location."
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
There are certain factors that increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Among them, the consumption of tobacco and alcohol stands out, especially in patients over 40 years of age. It is estimated that this combination of risk factors is present in 90% of cases of oral carcinoma. Therefore, people with these risk factors are advised to perform monthly self-examinations to detect possible abnormalities.
How to perform a self-exam correctly?
The objective of the self-examination is for the patient to be able to identify precancerous lesions or symptoms of cancer in the oral cavity, gums, tongue or lips. To carry it out, you need a light, a mirror and the handle of a spoon to examine all the angles. Here are the steps to follow:
- Examine the tongue, the gums, the inside walls of the cheek, the inside of the lips, the back of the teeth and the palate.
- Look for signs or alterations such as:
- red or white lesions
- Ulcers in the mouth, lips, or throat
- Numbness in any area of the mouth
- Swollen jaw or difficulty swallowing
It is important to note that these symptoms do not always cause pain and may be due to other causes, such as an ill-fitting denture. If alterations are detected, it is necessary to be attentive to their evolution and go to the dentist if they do not disappear within a period of approximately two weeks. Treating oral cancer at an early stage decreases the risks and consequences of this disease.
Oral Cancer Prevention
In addition to self-examination, there are other measures that we can take to prevent oral cancer:
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol use: Tobacco and alcohol are the main risk factors associated with oral cancer. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption can significantly reduce the risk of developing this disease.
- Maintain good oral hygiene: Proper oral hygiene, which includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily, helps maintain oral health and prevent diseases such as oral cancer.
- Visit the dentist regularly: Going to the dentist at least once a year to perform dental check-ups and cleanings can contribute to the early detection of abnormalities in the mouth and, therefore, to the early diagnosis of oral cancer.
- To eat a balanced diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber can help maintain good oral health and reduce the risk of oral cancer.
- Protect yourself from the sun: Prolonged exposure to the sun on the lips can increase the risk of cancer in this area. Using sunscreen lip balm is an important preventative measure.
Early detection of oral cancer is essential to increase the chances of success in its treatment. Self-examination and regular visits to the dentist are essential to identify possible abnormalities and receive an early diagnosis. In addition, adopting healthy habits, such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, maintaining good oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and protecting yourself from the sun, can contribute to the prevention of this disease. Awareness and information are our best allies in the fight against oral cancer.