April: Oral Cancer Awareness Month

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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

Oral cancer affects more people than you might think. And it’s not just confined to smokers and people over the age of 40.

We do routine oral cancer screenings for every single one of our patients. The screening itself is quick and painless, so you have no reason to forgo an examination.

Since oral cancer isn’t always obvious or painful during its initial phases, many people don’t realize they have oral cancer until symptoms develop. And by then, treatment becomes much more difficult.

As with everything related to dental health, early detection and preventative care are vital.

Before we get into detection and prevention, let’s take a look at some of the statistics.

The Statistics

In America, one person dies of oral cancer every hour of every day. 43,00 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014.

Worldwide, 450,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.

Oral cancer is the sixth most common kind of cancer. 25% of oral cancers are found in people who don’t smoke, and are free of any other lifestyle risk factors.

Oral cancer occurs in people who smoke, people who drink heavily, and people over the age of 40. But it’s not just restricted to those groups.

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, “the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus.”

Oral cancer is frighteningly common, and it can happen to anyone.

Detection and Prevention

Fortunately, oral cancer screenings can drastically improve your chances of living a cancer-free life.

If oral cancer is detected early, survival rates increase from 40% to 80-90%. Your chance of surviving oral cancer and living a healthy, happy life more than double if you undergo regular oral cancer exams.

It’s important to see your dentist about oral cancer. Many people don’t know they have oral cancer until they experience red or white skin lesions or patches in and around the mouth. It also manifests itself in the form of sores, hoarseness, or even prolonged difficulty swallowing.

These symptoms don’t always mean you have oral cancer, but they are signs that you should see a dentist about, immediately.

If it goes untreated, oral cancer can cause tooth loss, chronic pain, bone loss, facial disfigurement, and even death.

That’s why we always recommend and perform an oral cancer screening on our patients.

For you, the patient, they’re painless, quick, and easy. For us, it’s one of the most important parts of our job.

The next time you visit your dentist, ask for an oral cancer exam. You’ll be glad you did.

~Dr. Marea White