Many of us tend to ignore minor afflictions. That is, until they occur somewhere visible like the face! Then it is very easy to panic. So you wanna know, is that a canker sore or is it cancer? Let's discuss the differences and we will also point out the warning signs for oral cancer while we are at it.
What exactly is a canker sore?
A canker sore is a sore that suddenly appears in the mouth on your gums or the inside of your cheek. Red or white in color, they usually sting. This is one factor that helps you to know that it's not cancer, because cancer sores in these locations are generally not painful, just persistent. Whereas that stinging canker sore might disappear anywhere between a day or in a week.
What, specifically, is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer is an extremely virulent cancer which can affect the following areas:
- Underneath or on top of the tongue
- The insides of your cheeks
- The roof of your mouth
- Your gums
- Your lips
With such a wide range of coverage there are a number of symptoms that can associate. Compared to canker sores, it's hardly worth a contrast. They are night and day when compared. That said, let's discuss some early symptoms that can arise from mouth cancer.
A grim comparison
Mouth cancer, however, has a lot of nasty symptoms that arise as it progresses. We've compiled a list of warning signs that are very important to get checked out if you should see them. Mouth cancer is not something to trifle with and if it isn't caught early, statistically there is a 59% survival rate after 5 years. This one is serious, folks. Here are some early warning signs to watch out for:
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Sores on the lip or inside the mouth that do not heal and are generally numb.
- Reddish-brown or white patches on the inside of the mouth..
- Constant sore throat.
- Loose teeth.
- Lumps or thickening areas inside the mouth.
Certain things can factor into how much you are at risk for this sort of cancer. Barring genetic proclivity for such cancers, the following items should be considered:
- Sun exposure - Too much exposure of the sun to your lips can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
- Heavy alcohol usage - Another factor that should be considered if you are seeing symptoms.
- Tobacco use- A known factor for many kinds of cancer, mouth cancer is no exception.
- Compromised immune system - This can increase your risk to mouth and other cancers as well.
- Age - The average age of those diagnosed with mouth cancer is 62.
What causes mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer occurs when a certain type of cells called 'squamous' cells, suffer mutation. The squamous cells are thin cells that reside in your lips and the inside of your mouth. Thus mouth cancer is sometimes referred to as squamous cell carcinoma. Basically, these mutations cause the cells to continue growing and splitting when they should die and be replaced in a normal cycle.
“Mouth cancer is sometimes referred to as squamous cell carcinoma.”
What can I do to prevent mouth cancer?
Unfortunately, there really is very little that you can do to prevent it. You can ask your dentist for regular screenings, as this can help to ensure that it is caught early if any signs arise. Beyond this, Avoiding heavy sun exposure, excessive alcohol abuse, and avoiding tobacco products are a good idea.
Yikes! Well, suppose that I just have canker sores?
With canker sores, we can definitely help. There are a number of means to get rid of canker sores quickly. We've compiled a list of items to help you get rid of those unsightly(and thankfully, non-cancerous) variety of sores. To send those canker sores packing, try one or more of the following methods:
- Avoid acidic foods, which can make your canker sores stick around longer.
- Topical, over-the-counter medications are available that can help as well.
- Regular mouthwash use and good dental hygience(resular brushing and flossing) can help a canker sore to heal more quickly.
- Zinc - Zinc tablets or lozenges can help for a speedy recovery from canker sores.
- Salt water rinses can help. Mix half a teaspoon of salt into a half cup of water. Rinse 2 to 3 times a day.
- Begin taking vitamin C and B complex immediately when canker sores begin. This can aid in speedy healing.
- Chomp on a chamomile teabag after steeping it and letting it cool awhile. The tannins in the tea are helpful for speeding up healing.
Can I prevent canker sores in the first place?
The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Due to the large number of reasons that they can occur, it's hard to adopt a strategy that ensures 100% prevention. There are some small things that you can do, however. Such as: the following:
- Chew very carefully so as not to damage the inside of your mouth. Think of it as chewing slowly to take the time to enjoy your food.
- Avoid overly spicy or acidic foods. If they are your favorite, just try to moderate. Anticipation is one of the best spices of all.
- Meditation or simply taking some time sitting in the park can help lower your stress levels. Stress is a big contributor to the arrrival of canker sores.
The bottom line
We've compared the types of sores that can occur from both an episode of canker sores to the vicious rigors of mouth cancer. As a quick rule, if the sores are fairly numbed, get it checked out. Canker sores are going to sting so while they are uncomfortable, they are much better than the alternative. Practice the preventative measures for cankers and ensure regular screening from your dentist for mouth cancer and you shouldn't need to worry!