Quit using tobacco
Mouth cancers are closely linked to tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others. Not everyone who is diagnosed with mouth cancer uses tobacco. But if you do, now is the time to stop because:
- Tobacco use makes treatment less effective.
- Tobacco use makes it harder for your body to heal after surgery.
- Tobacco use increases your risk of a cancer recurrence and of getting another cancer in the future.
Quitting smoking or chewing can be very difficult. And it's that much harder when you're trying to cope with a stressful situation, such as a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can discuss all of your options, including medications, nicotine replacement products and counseling.
As you discuss your mouth cancer treatment options with your doctor, you may feel overwhelmed. It can be a confusing time, as you're trying to come to terms with your new diagnosis, and also being pressed to make treatment decisions. Cope with this uncertainty by taking control of what you can. For instance, try to:
- Learn enough about mouth cancer to make treatment decisions. Make a list of questions to ask at your next appointment. Bring a recorder or a friend to help you take notes. Ask your doctor about reliable books or websites to turn to for accurate information. The more you know about your cancer and your treatment options, the more confident you'll feel as you make treatment decisions.
- Talk to other mouth cancer survivors. Connect with people who understand what you're going through. Ask your doctor about support groups for people with cancer in your community. Or contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Another option is online message boards, such as those run by the Oral Cancer Foundation.
- Take time for yourself. Set aside time for yourself each day. Use this time to take your mind off your cancer and do what makes you happy. Even a short break for some relaxation in the middle of a day full of tests and scans may help you cope.
- Keep family and friends close. Friends and family can provide both emotional and practical support as you go through treatment. Your friends and family will likely ask you what they can do to help. Take them up on their offers. Think ahead to ways you might like help, whether it's asking a friend to prepare a meal for you or asking a family member to be there when you need someone to talk with.
There's no proven way to prevent mouth cancer. However, you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer if you:
- Stop using tobacco or don't start. If you use tobacco, stop. If you don't use tobacco, don't start. Using tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Chronic excessive alcohol use can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman or two drinks a day if you're a man.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of mouth cancer.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips. Protect the skin on your lips from the sun by staying in the shade when possible. Wear a broad-brimmed hat that effectively shades your entire face, including your mouth. Apply a sunscreen lip product as part of your routine sun protection regimen.
- See your dentist regularly. As part of a routine dental exam, ask your dentist to inspect your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes.
Aug. 11, 2017
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