Early detection is key in the survival of oral cancer, and the perfect time to learn about prevention and screening is April, which is designated Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The Oral Cancer Foundation, along with other groups working to beat this disease, is encouraging people to look for signs and symptoms and schedule regular dental exams.
How Common is Oral Cancer?
In 2021, experts estimate 54,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and it is twice as common in men. Unfortunately, with many of these cancers detected in late stages, the death rate is high. Five years after diagnosis, 43 percent of patients lose their lives. Those who survive the disease are left with long-term issues such as problems swallowing or speaking and facial disfigurement.
Several risk factors stand out.
Heavy use of alcohol and tobacco among those over the age of 50 has long contributed to the incidence of oral cancer. Healthcare professionals are also seeing a rise in nonsmokers from the human papillomavirus 16 (HPV), normally a sexually transmitted disease leading to cervical cancer. However, doctors are seeing HPV playing a role in oropharyngeal cancer at the base of the tongue and in lymph tissue.
Yet, 25 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer have no risk factors. So, it is important to keep up with regular screenings.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
The most common signs of oral cancer include a sore that does not heal, white or red patches on the lips or inside of the mouth, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Also, do not ignore pain or lumps inside the mouth, throat, or neck. Hoarseness, trouble speaking, or bad breath are other common symptoms. If these symptoms do not resolve on their own, it is important to see a dentist for screening.
How Can Regular Dental Exams Help?
Seeing your dentist for regular check-ups can help in the early detection of this disease. Oral Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to add this essential screening to your healthcare routine. When you make an appointment with your dentist, ask to have this screening be included in your appointment. A dentist will use gloved hands to check for lumps or abnormalities as well as look for red or white patches.
Not only will you get a thorough examination, but also, any questions and concerns can be answered. Your dentist can show you how to conduct a monthly self-check in the mirror in between check-ups. Early detection is important in finding oral cancer in its early stages, making it easier to treat and increasing survival.
If you would like to schedule an appointment for a dental examination or have any questions, please call North View Dental Associates at (801) 782-6681. Our professional team and comfortable office, located in Ogden, Utah, is waiting to meet your dental needs.