What you can do, as a patient, to help prevent this potentially deadly disease.
Oral cancer may not be as well known as some other types of cancer, but it can still have devastating effects for anyone suffering from it. This is especially the case for those where it was not detected until it had reached a relatively advanced stage.
Aside from any treatment that you might need to undergo, facial deformities, difficulty in swallowing, and even death, can follow. Although treatments for cancer have improved over the years, it is obviously far better to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Before we move onto the patient’s role, it is important to remember that the Foxhall Dental Practice in Ipswich examines your mouth during routine checkups for possible signs of cancer symptoms and will refer you to your GP for further examination if required. It is worth reminding patients that just because we ask you to have something checked by your GP, this is to err on the side of caution and there may well be other reasons for the symptoms. It is not a cancer diagnosis.
The patient’s role in cancer prevention
Although no strategy is entirely foolproof, there are certain actions and habits that some of us carry out, often on a daily basis, that may be contributory factors towards your oral, or mouth, cancer risk. By eliminating, or at least reducing these, the chances of a healthy mouth are increased and your cancer risks reduced.
The biggest thing that you can do to minimise your mouth cancer risk is to stop smoking. We appreciate that this is easier said than done, but it very important. Smoking has many negative effects on the mouth including increased likelihood of gum disease, bad breath, teeth staining and the slowing down of the healing process following dental surgery. Above all though, smoking greatly puts you at risk of mouth cancer and should be stopped. There are many different ways to stop and we suggest that you look around for a local support group, possibly via your GP. Many people also find that switching to vaping is an effective method, although long term health risks of this is not yet clear.
Many of us will enjoy an odd beer or glass of wine with our food. Although alcohol consumption is not really great news for our body, it can have beneficial effects such as relief after a stressful day and also an opportunity to catch up with friends over a beer, rather than stare at our ‘phones at home. Providing that you are a sensible drinker and clean your teeth properly, there is probably relatively little harm in this.
The problem arises when we drink on a regular basis and especially if we drink heavily. Like smoking, alcohol is a leading cause of oral cancer and, if you drink excessively, now is the time to cut down on this.
The HPV virus is thought to have played a large part in the rise in cases of oral cancer. This is passed on through oral sex and particularly if you have a number of partners. Younger people are especially at risk of this. There is now political pressure to make the HPV vaccine more widely available, and, if you are in a high risk group, please ask your GP about the possibility of being vaccinated against it. You can read more about the HPV virus at https://oralcancerfoundation.org/understanding/hpv/hpv-oral-cancer-facts/ .
Poor oral hygiene
Although failure to look after your teeth and gums is more likely to lead to tooth decay and gum disease, it can also contribute to your oral cancer risk, especially if you drink and/or smoke. Now might be a good time to take stock of this, and one excellent way to do this is to make an appointment with one of the oral hygienists in our dental clinic. Not only will your teeth be given a professional clean, but your ongoing oral health care will be discussed along with how to improve it. This really is an affordable and effective way of improving the health of your mouth.
These are the four main causes of oral cancer, and if you follow the advice above, it should result in a much healthier mouth than you have at the moment. Please do remember to keep up your routine dental check ups. They may seem relatively ‘unimportant’ to you, but they really do help to keep your teeth and gums in good condition and also allow early detection of other problems like oral cancer. It is always hoped that no signs of this are detected, but, where they are, it is far better that this is done at an early stage, making the outcome, following treatment more positive.
Make sure that you have a checkup appointment at the Foxhall Dental Practice booked. If you haven’t, you can arrange one by calling our Ipswich practice on 01473 258396.