April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
With health top-of-mind for everyone these days, we wanted to share some additional timely health news during the month of April to highlight Oral Cancer Awareness Month. There are nearly 50,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed in the U.S. every year. BUT, the good news is there is an 80-90 percent survival rate when oral cancers are diagnosed early!
That’s why Dr. E and her team want to make you aware of the signs and symptoms every patient should watch out for during Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Learn more below:
Common Oral Cancer Symptoms to Look For:
Because oral cancers are so treatable when detected early, self-diagnosis should become part of every dental routine. Key symptoms to watch out for include:
- Sudden trouble or pain when chewing or swallowing
- Chronic sore throat or hoarse voice
- A sore that does not heal and/or bleeds
- A mass in the mouth or neck
- White and/or red patches in the mouth or lips
- Jaw pain and/or stiffness
How Will My Dentist Check for Oral Cancer?
During your routine dental exam, your dentist will thoroughly examine your mouth, the back of your throat, tongue, cheeks and neck. If abnormalities are found, your dentist will recommend a brush biopsy (collecting cells from a tumor on a slide) or a tissue biopsy (removing a piece of tissue to examine under a microscope). If necessary, further testing may be performed by an ENT specialist to check for spread of oral cancer, such as X-ray, CT scan, PET scan, MRI scan, or endoscopy.
Oral Cancer Treatment Options:
Treatment for oral cancer varies based on each diagnosis, but patients diagnosed with oral cancer are fortunate have an array of effective options at their disposal.
Surgery to remove any cancerous growths or tissues is an effective treatment if oral cancer is diagnosed in the early stages. Chemotherapy – with or without radiation therapy – is also effective in treating oral cancers. Targeted therapy drugs have also been found to successfully treat patients with oral cancer. The drugs bind to proteins on the cancer cells to inhibit further growth or spread.
Oral Cancer Prevention Tips:
The most important tip your dentist can share with you is that a healthy lifestyle can help prevent oral cancer! Unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking, smoking and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of cancer exponentially.
HPV is also a major cause of oral cancer, which is why the CDC currently recommends the HPV vaccine (ages 11-13) to help prevent sexually transmitted disease as well as cervical and oral cancers from occurring.
It’s also important to point out that males are nearly twice as likely as females to be diagnosed with oral cancer, primarily based on lifestyle factors. So help make sure the men in your life are proactive about routine self-checks and dental visits!
There are many reasons you should see your dentist regularly – good oral hygiene, cavity prevention, and dental cosmetic enhancements to name a few. However, during your next dental visit, be sure to make oral cancer screening part of your discussion. And, always, always, always maintain healthy lifestyle habits and watch for signs and symptoms of oral cancer so that you can avoid becoming a statistic.
Dr. E Cosmetic & Family Dentistry encourages you to click the link below to view a great resource from the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) on oral cancer self-exam:
Stay safe and healthy, everyone!
The Dr. E Cosmetic & Family Dentistry Team