From the Parish Nurse
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Most of us know someone who has either oral or throat cancer. There are some steps that can help to prevent these cancers and some checks that can be done to recognize a problem early on.
First, be aware of and check for signs of a potential problem. The Oral Cancer Foundation lists the following symptoms as things that should be noted: “A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks. A lump or thickening in the cheek. A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth. A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat. Difficulty chewing or swallowing. Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue. Numbness of the tongue or other area or the mouth. Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable. Chronic hoarseness.” The Mayo clinic adds a cough, changes in your voice, ear pain, and sudden weight loss as other symptoms of throat cancer. Now, don’t panic! All of these symptoms have other less serious reasons for occurring. But, if anything on the list starts and does not go away within 2 weeks, a trip to the dentist or doctor may be in order just to be safe.
The biggest risk factors for oral and throat cancers in every article I read were smoking, chewing tobacco, and getting the HPV virus orally. Other factors that may increase your risk include having gastroesophageal reflux disease, drinking alcohol excessively, a diet lacking fruits and vegetables and having a family heredity for oral or throat cancer. Certain autoimmune diseases, such as Lichen planus, also increase the risk of oral cancer.
Most people visit their dentist 1-2 times a year. A visual and tactile assessment should be done during the visit to examine the tongue, inside the cheeks, roof of the mouth, back of the throat and along the gums. This can be done by a trained dental hygienist, dentist or doctor.
I will have information out in Fellowship Hall concerning what tests are done for a positive diagnosis and what the present treatments are for different stages of cancer. Decreasing risks where you can and being vigilant to watch for and deal with anything suspicious quickly are important steps in staying healthy. Call me with any questions or concerns!
God Bless, Beth