Oral Cancer Awareness Your Mouth Cavity the Importance Prevention

female face biting her lip types of oral cancer

Oral Cancer Awareness Your Mouth Cavity the Importance Prevention

pexels-karolina-grabowska-6627527 oral cancer awareness

Last updated 06/11/2022

In 2001 the American Dental Association ran a campaign to raise awareness for oral cancer. In addition, this included the dentist's role in early detection.  Oral Cancer Awareness this is important.

Surveys were done at the time and people didn’t realize that dentists were responsible for examining them for oral cancer. And that it claims more lives than melanoma or cervical cancer.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month takes place each April. Most importantly, it is a public reminder for a checkup. Dental associates connect with the Oral Cancer Foundation to encourage awareness of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. Above all, you may be able to receive a free oral cancer screening during this month.

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What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is also called mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer. It develops as a growth or lesion in the mouth that doesn’t go away. Around 50,000 people in the U. S. get oral cancer each year. To sum up, 70% of them are men.

These are cancers of the:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Cheeks
  • Floor of the mouth
  • Hard and soft palate
  • Sinuses
  • Pharynx (throat)

This type of cancer is included in the group known as head and neck cancers. And in this combination oral cancers comprise around 85% of that category.

Identified by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) these cancers have their own categories:

  • Brain cancer
  • Auditory and Ocular cancers
  • Thyroid cancer

This cancer is especially dangerous because it may not be detected. Early on it can prosper with no pain or recognizable symptoms. So, when caught early it is treatable.

But most people are diagnosed in later stages. In addition, there is a high risk of creating second primary tumors. Visiting your dentist or doctor for regular screenings will give you a better chance for an early detection.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

The most common:

  • Swellings
  • Thickening, lumps or bumps, rough spots
  • Crusts eroded areas of the lips, gums, cheek or other areas inside the mouth

Pain areas:

  • In the ear
  • Mouth
  • Mouth and face
  • Pain can happen while swallowing


  • Ulcers, bad breath or red and white plaques
  • Coughing or enlarged lymph nodes on neck

Oral cancer can resemble a common lip or mouth sore except for the fact it doesn’t heal. And if it is not treated it can spread to other areas of the head and neck.

Where this Cancer Begins

Oral Cancer begins in the squamous cells of your mouth. Squamous cells are flat and similar to fish scales when viewed under a microscope.

Normal squamous cells turn cancerous as their DNA alters. After that, cells begin growing and multiplying. In advanced stages they can spread to more parts of your mouth. That is to say, locations in your head and neck as well as farther.

Who is Affected by Oral Cancer

Research says the highest oral cancer numbers are African Americans and Caucasians. These groups are most likely to develop tongue cancer. However, Koreans are said to have the highest incidence of tongue cancer.

Southeast Asians were more likely to form the cancer in the buccal mucosa, or inner cheek. And Filipino women have the highest occurrence with cancer of the palate. It strikes men more than women. Your risk goes up with age.

Why is this so Important?

The awareness for this type of cancer is low. There could be 50,000 people in the U.S. receiving diagnoses for oral cancer this year. Furthermore, 132 new people e very day in the U.S. And with the passing of each hour one individual 24/7/365 will die from oral cancer.

In addition, there is really no comprehensive screening for the cancer. This develops, many times with no visible symptoms in the throat, tonsils and the base of the tongue. In comparison the front of the mouth has warning signs of lesions and discoloration.

Usually, the oral cancer is discovered when it has spread to another area. Often it goes to the lymph nodes of the neck. In short, the prognosis at this stage is significantly worse. And the primary tumor has developed deeper into nearby structures.

That is to say, for those surviving the first encounter the risk of a second is about 20 times higher. Furthermore, this increased risk factor can last 5 to 10 years beyond the first cancer.

What is the Mouth Cavity?

Your mouth or oral cavity includes:

  • Your lips
  • Your gums
  • The lining of the inside of your cheeks
  • The first two-thirds of your tongue
  • The floor of your mouth (beneath your tongue)
  • The first part of the roof of your mouth
  • The section just behind your wisdom teeth

Look in Your Mouth

There is a website that shows you how to do a self-exam for oral cancer. And the Oral Cancer Foundation has created a public service effort with The Check Your Mouth Campaign. This is in the hopes of informing the public on recognizing these dangerous abnormalities. Thus, included are video and pictures.

It is so important to discover most cancers early. However, specifically with oral cancer early detection means less invasive treatments as well as a better outcome. Oral cancer can affect your quality of life.

If you recognize a shift in your mouth that is concerning, contact your dentist or another professional. Anything suspicious requires evaluation.

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Functions of Your Mouth

Imagine not being able to use your mouth or not having a portion of it. There are parts that work together such as when you eat and talk. Your teeth and tongue keep food inside to chew.  Likewise, the lips and tongue assist in creating sounds and words.

Your teeth actually form and structure your face. This part of the body is instinctively used daily, and it is given little thought. As a result, the moment you wake up you may start to use your mouth for something as simple as yawning.

The mouth is the beginning of your digestive system. It is needed for:

  • Breathing
  • Chewing
  • Digesting your foods and drinks
  • Drinking
  • Swallowing
  • Talking
  • Tasting

Oral Cancer Increased Risk

Your risk increases with these activities:

  • Smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes
  • Use smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco, dip, snuff or water pipes (hookah or shush)
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol on regular basis
  • Sun exposure without sunblock on your lips

The Virus

Even if you don’t smoke or use tobacco products this can happen to you. Therefore, the fastest growing group is young, healthy, non-smoking people because of the HPV virus. Likewise, this virus is so familiar that most adults will be infected during their lifetime.

According to the CDC, virtually every American will be exposed within the beginning of their sexual encounters. There is just a small percentage of Americans with an immune system that doesn’t take the virus as a threat. And that small amount of the population years after will develop cancer.

Although, the virus can’t be stopped from spreading the hope is to save lives through professional involvement and raising awareness.

Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you carry this protection. So, the important step to follow is a routine self-exam taking 5-10 minutes every month.

How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

During a regular visit your dentist could spot oral cancer. There could be follow up involving preliminary test.

A referral to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, could be obtained or head and neck surgeon. Moreover, physicians that are known as ears, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

Oral Cancer Test

Physical Exam

Your physician will check the entire inside of your mouth. This could include feeling around your mouth as well. In addition, your head face and neck will be examined for any signs of precancer or cancer.

Brush biopsy (aka Scrape Biopsy) or Exfoliative Cytology

Doctors utilize a small brush or spatula to take samples. This tool gently scrapes the area to collect cells to be observed for cancer.

Incisional Biopsy

Small pieces of tissue are taken by your provider to obtain cells to be examined for cancer.

Indirect laryngoscopy and Pharyngoscopy

The physician uses a small mirror attached to a long thin handle. This is to glance at your throat, the base of your tongue and section of your larynx (voice box).

Direct (Flexible) Pharyngoscopy and Laryngoscopy

An endoscope can be manipulated to observe parts of your throat and mouth that can’t be seen in the mirror. Further, an endoscope is a thin, flexible tube having a light and viewing lens.

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How to Prevent Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer can be prevented with these steps.

Tobacco Use

If you smoke tobacco, chew tobacco or use a water pipe, try to quit or cut back. You can inquire your doctor about smoking cessation programs.


Drink alcohol beverages in moderation.

Apply Sunscreen

Don’t forget sunscreen on your face and lips.


Get vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV).


Eat a healthy diet.

Dental Visits

Go for regular dental visits. Those between 20 and 40 years of age should have an oral cancer screening every three years. And if you’re over 40 you should have annual exams.

Oral cancer screenings include:

  • Cheek lining
  • Floor and roof of mouth
  • Gums
  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Tonsils
Wrapping it up

Cancer in the mouth is dangerous because it may not be detected early enough. This is why you should be aware of any changes in your oral cavity. Most importantly, get your routine screenings.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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