Cancers that occur in the lips, mouth or throat are generally referred to as ‘oral’ cancers. Most of these cancers begin at the base of the tongue and the floor of the mouth (underneath your tongue). This is why your dentist lifts your tongue and examines that area closely during your routine dental exams.
Oral cancers are common in all ages, races, and genders. However, the risk is higher in men over the age of 40 who are smokers or who have a history of using smokeless tobacco. There is also an increased incidence in oral cancers if you have had any other type of head or neck cancer. Prolonged exposure to the sun places you at risk for cancer that begins on the lip.
More recently, a dramatically increased incidence of oral cancers have been seen in individuals who have been exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is the virus associated with genital warts, and there is a vaccine for young girls now.
Some signs and symptoms of oral cancers include:
If you have any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your local dentist for an examination. Your dentist is the appropriate person to screen for all oral cancers, and this is one of the main reasons to have a routine dental check up and cleaning at least twice a year.
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