7 Common Misconceptions About Oral Cancer

1. If there is no pain, I do not have to worry about it

Common thought among people is that pain is the symptom of cancer.  During early stages and rarely in some cancers there is no pain. Sometimes, pre-cancer lesions occurs at places that are not easily visible which usually remain unnoticed. Be aware of the symptoms that can signal a problem including , mouth or lip sores, white or red patch on the tongue, gums, tonsils or mouth lining , unusual bleeding .

2. If oral cancer runs in my family, then I will get it too

Few conditions run in the family, including mouth cancer. If you have a strong family history of mouth cancer, it is vital to get yourself screened regularly. However, you are less bound to get mouth cancer. Avoiding exposure of risk factors can bring down chances of ending up with mouth cancers.

3. I am young, so I don’t have to worry 

Although mouth cancer risk increases after age 50, not all forms of the disease are associated with age. However, number of young people are developing the disease, due to a possible link between the cancer and sexually transmitted forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

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4. Only smokers and tobacco users get Oral Cancer 

Smokers and Tobacco usage significantly increases the risk of developing mouth cancer, it’s not the only possible cause. Regular habits such as smoking cigars or cigarettes, chewing or dipping tobacco, or consuming alcohol regularly will increase the risk of getting mouth cancer, but people who have never used tobacco before also get mouth cancer. Genetics play a part in the likelihood of developing mouth cancer, other risk factors including a weakened immune system, prolonged sun exposure, HPV infection, age(risk increases with age) and poor diet.

 

5. Mouth and throat cancers are rare 

 In India, around 77,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths are reported annually, which is approximately one-fourth of global incidences. Mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancers worldwide, according to the World Cancer Research Fund Intentional.

6. Prevention methods against oral cancer do not exist 

One can lower the risk of acquiring mouth cancer by quitting smoking, avoiding tobacco use and chewing betel quid, the three prime risk factors in the Indian subcontinent. In addition, avoid alcohol, eating fresher fruits and vegetables, limiting exposure to sun on the lips are also helpful in preventing mouth cancer. Practice safe sex to reduce risk of getting cancer- linked strains of HPV

7. Betel leaf chewing can cause cancer  

The traditional habit of consuming betel leaf alone does have many curative and health benefits.  Adding of betel nuts, slime, and some other chemical compounds along with betel leaf can act as initiator for the cause of cancer.     

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Author: Dr Dharani Sriram, Scientific Coordinator, IACDG

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