Oral health for cancer prevention

Healthy starts in the mouth. This catchy slogan applies especially to the prevention of cancers in the oral cavity, jaw and throat. Cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx are seventh in men and fifteenth in females of malignant tumors.

Who is affected?

In Germany, approximately 7, 600 men and 2, 800 women develop cancer of the floor, palate, salivary glands, and throat every year. most affected are people in their early 60s.

Even in precancerous lesions, almost 3 times as many men as women are affected. Every cancer diagnosis hits the patients hard.

In the case of a cancer of the oral cavity, the aggravating factor is that a disease or surgery on the face is immediately apparent to everyone and can very impair the sense of self-worth. In addition, being together with other people is burdened because important social functions such as speaking, chewing or swallowing are limited.

Causes and risks

Tumors in the oral cavity are very often caused by smoking and / or alcohol. Particularly dangerous are very strong or unfiltered cigarettes, high-percentage alcoholic beverages and above all the combination of smoking and alcohol. The risk of cancer increases at least 6-fold, depending on the amount of tobacco and alcohol consumed, compared to a person who does not smoke or drink alcohol.

Since the mid-nineties, the incidence of new males has been decreasing for men, and slower for women. Other important risk factors are unfavorable dietary habits, especially the low intake of fruits and vegetables (and thus too little antioxidants) as well as bad oral hygiene.

For people who do not go regularly to the dental check-ups, complicating the fact that the cancer is often discovered only at a later stage. Also, chronic sores on the oral mucosa (for example due to sharp tooth or prosthetic edges), chronic fungal infections in the mouth (Candida albicans) and papillomaviruses can act as co-causative agents of oral cancers. Diabetics are more likely to suffer from - possibly carcinogenic - changes in the oral mucosa than healthy people.

Prevent cancers in the oral cavity, jaw and throat

Conversely, it is clear how this cancer can be effectively prevented: the renunciation of tobacco, less frequent and moderate consumption of alcohol and a good oral and dental care (with thorough brushing twice a day and regular visits to the dentist) are a good protection, supported by a mouth and A healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains.

Use biannual dentist visits for early detection

As with any cancer, early detection has a special role to play: the sooner a tumor is detected, the greater the chances of recovery.

Here, dentists play an important role as experts in oral health: at every biannual check-up, they should systematically assess the entire oral cavity, especially in high-risk patients, such as smokers. If you are not sure whether your own dentist will carry out this examination, you should simply address him briefly at the next appointment and ask for it.

Control of the oral cavity

In addition, anyone can help themselves to early detection by regularly looking at his oral cavity in good lighting conditions. If there are flat, whitish spots that feel hard at the same time, this should be clarified immediately by a doctor.

Because these can be the so-called leukoplakia, flat, not eradicable mucosal changes that can pass as precancerous lesions (precancerous lesions) in a malignant tumor of the mucous membrane (squamous cell carcinoma). Flat, reddish changes or sores in the mouth lasting more than two weeks should also be examined by a doctor, dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon as soon as possible.

Checklist: Early detection of oral cancer

Complaints occur in tumors in the oral cavity only in the advanced stage - thus there are no "real" early symptoms. However, the following features may indicate a tumorous process in the mouth and throat and require in any case medical examination:

  • whitish, reddish or whitish-red areas that are not wipeable and feel harder than the other oral mucosa
  • chronic sores in the mouth (longer than two weeks)
  • slightly bleeding wounds
  • difficulties swallowing
  • Speech disability or pain when speaking
  • "Dumpling" in the area of ​​the floor or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • longer existing bad breath
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