Calvert County Health Department
Oral Cancer Prevention
Oral or mouth cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the floor of the mouth, cheek lining, gingiva (gums), or palate (roof of the mouth). Most oral cancers look very similar under the microscope and are called squamous cell carcinomas. These are malignant and tend to spread rapidly.
Smoking and other tobacco use are associated with 70-80% of oral cancer cases. Smoke and heat from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes irritate the mucous membranes of the mouth. Use of chewing tobacco or snuff causes irritation from direct contact with the mucous membranes. Heavy alcohol use is another high-risk activity associated with oral cancer.
Other risks include poor dental and oral hygiene and chronic irritation (such as that from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings). Some oral cancers begin as mouth ulcers. Oral cancer accounts for about 8% of all malignant growths. Men are affected twice as often as women, particularly men older than 40.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Oral cancer can be discovered when your dentist performs a routine cleaning and examination.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if a lesion of the mouth or lip or a lump in the neck are present and do not clear within 1 month.
You should have the soft tissue of the mouth examined once a year. Many oral cancers are discovered by routine dental examination.
- Minimize or avoid smoking or other tobacco use
- Minimize or avoid alcohol use
- Practice good oral hygiene
- Have dental problems corrected
If you are using tobacco, call the Calvert County’s Smoking Cessation Program at 410-535-5400 or 301-855-1353 x348 for assistance in quitting tobacco and/or enrolling in the Cessation Program.