April is oral cancer awareness month. And in 2019, we wanted to bring awareness to the increased prevalence of these cancers and how you can better prevent such devastating health concerns.
Oral cancers of the mouth and upper throat (oral and oropharyngeal) kill nearly one person every hour and those who survive often suffer severe long-term problems like facial disfigurement and difficulties eating and speaking.
Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are often discovered in later stages which causes the death rate for these cancers to be high, so for oral cancer awareness month we want to bring your attention to the risk factors and symptoms of these deadly cancers and remind you that regular dental appointments are an important part of prevention
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
While anyone can develop oral cancer, there are a number of factors that can increase your risk for developing the disease.
Tobacco use including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff is the single largest risk factor for developing oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol of any type (beer, wine, or liquor) significantly increases your risk of developing oral cancers. The risk is higher for people who both drink and use tobacco products.
Although this type of cancer can develop in people of any age, two-thirds of people with the disease are over the age of 55.
Men are more likely to develop oral and oropharyngeal cancers than women. This is likely linked to heavy alcohol and tobacco usage more commonly seen in men than in women.
Recently, oropharyngeal cancers have started developing more frequently in younger non-smokers because of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus 16 (HPV).
Immune System Suppression
People with compromised immune systems may have a higher risk of developing oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Symptoms
Many of the earliest signs & symptoms of oral and oropharyngeal cancers can be mistaken for other, less serious problems and in many cases the cause is not cancer, but you should always make an appointment with your dentist or doctor if you have any oral symptoms that persist longer than two weeks so that a diagnosis can be made. Some of the most common oral cancer symptoms include:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Persistent mouth pain
- A bleeding sore
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or lining of the mouth
- Sore throat
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty or pain with swallowing or chewing
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- A lump in the neck
- Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
- Numbness in the tongue or somewhere else in the mouth
Oral Cancer Screening
Many dentists perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental visits, which is one of the many reasons regular visits to your dentist are so important. The goal of these exams is to catch oral cancer early when there is a much greater chance of successfully treating it.
Your dentist will perform a visual exam of your lips, face, neck, and inside of the oral cavity looking for abnormalities like swelling, bumps, sores, or patches of color. They may also perform a physical exam of the oral cavity, cheeks, jaw, and chin to feel for unusual masses or swelling.
If you are at high risk of developing oral cancer, your dentist may recommend further screening options that can be discussed between dentist and patient.
Oral Cancer Awareness
For oral cancer awareness month, we are encouraging our patients to schedule their regular exams to make sure they get in to see a dentist every 6 months. The team at Hawkins Family Dental are happy to fulfill all of your preventative dentistry needs and regular dental visits with oral cancer screenings are the best way to ensure that oral cancer can be detected and treated early.Leave a reply →