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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and the Oral Cancer Foundation has created a national screening campaign with the aim of ending oral cancer. Surprisingly, Oral Cancer awareness among the American public is low. However, approximately 49,750 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone, meaning that every day 132 new people in the U.S. discover they have oral cancer. What’s more, one person in every hour of the day dies from a form of oral cancer. In our opinion, these numbers are staggering and unnecessary.

What is oral cancer, and why should I be concerned?

Oral and pharyngeal cancer is defined as cancer of the mouth and upper throat. It collectively kills nearly one person every hour, of every day, of the year. Furthermore, and sadly, of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 60% will live longer than five years. Moreover, those who survive will suffer many long-term problems. These issues range from severe facial disfigurement to difficulties eating and speaking. Additionally, the death rate associated with oral and pharyngeal cancers remains particularly high. These death rates are because the disease is often discovered late.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Without a doubt, smoking and tobacco use are still the most significant risk factors. But, surprisingly, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals. One significant connection is the human papilloma virus or HPV. It is difficult to stop this virus from spreading. Furthermore, these biological factors which include viruses and fungi, particularly the HPV16, have been definitively implicated in oral cancers, particularly those that occur in the back of the mouth. But, we hope to change this and save lives by spreading public awareness. Also, we do wish to be clear, that infection with even an HPV virus does not mean that you will develop oral cancer.

What Are the Symptoms?

One of the biggest dangers of Oral cancer is that it often goes unnoticed in it its earliest stages. It can be painless and does not present any real physical changes. The good news is that with regular visits to your dentist you may be able to discover the preliminary tissue changes, or even the cancer during its earliest stages. Some of the signs or symptoms may include:
• The sudden appearance of a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth.
• A small, hardened ulcer, which looks like a common canker sore.
• A lump or mass felt inside the mouth or neck.
• Extreme oral pain or difficulty swallowing.
• A mass that resembles a cluster of warts.
• Any unexplained numbness in the oral or facial region.
Furthermore, because we experience so many benign changes in the mouth that may mimic a dangerous tissue change, it is crucial that you contact your dentist if you notice a sore or discolored area in your mouth that does not heal within two weeks.

Can you lower your risk for oral cancer?

Yes, you can reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. First, and most importantly, avoid all tobacco products, period. Second, avoid the heavy use of alcohol. The combination of heavy alcohol and tobacco use is estimated to cause the majority of oral cancer cases in the United States. Next, avoid over-exposure to the sun, which increases the risk of lip cancer. As part of your oral hygiene routine, monitor your mouth for any changes in soft tissue, especially sores that do not heal within two weeks. Lastly, it is vital that you visit your dentist for regular check-ups. And, should you notice any changes contact him immediately to schedule an examination.

The entire staff at Denise Dental Studio shares a passion for offering our patients the very best care. This April we commemorate Oral Cancer Awareness month, but we encourage you to stay vigilant every day of every month of the year. Contact us today to schedule your examination and an oral cancer screening.