Apr 02, 2019

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which means dentists around the country are taking the time to remind their patients about the potentially life-threatening condition. Not only can oral cancer take your life, but it can also cause irreparable damage to your oral structures even if your treatment successfully cures it. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get screened for oral cancer in Venice if you haven’t recently already done so.

If you are unaware of the symptoms or risk factors associated with oral cancer, you’re going to want to keep reading.

Why is early detection so crucial?

Just like any serious disease, the sooner it is found, the easier it is to provide treatment. In the case of oral cancer, which happens to be the sixth most common form of cancer in the world, 40 percent of those newly diagnosed will not survive longer than five years. Why is this? Oral cancer is typically caught in the late stages of development. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, only 29 percent of those diagnosed catch it during the early stages.

However, those who catch it in the early stages are more likely to live longer and experience better outcomes. For example, those who catch it early have a 5-year survivability rate as high as 84 percent. This is quite a jump compared to those who catch it late, averaging a 34 percent 5-year survivability rate.

What are the risk factors?

A growing amount of research has shown that those with HPV, or human papillomavirus, are more likely to develop oral cancer. However, other factors can also play a role, including age and gender. Men are more likely to develop oral cancer compared to women, and older individuals, specifically over the age of 50, are at higher risk as well. With that said, the risk factors that you can influence on your own include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged sun exposure (especially without sunscreen or lip balm)
  • Poor diet
  • Poor oral hygiene

By making adjustments to these habits, you can lower your overall risk for developing oral cancer.

Common signs and symptoms of oral cancer

The best way to confirm if you have oral cancer is to get screened by a medical professional. Dentists are in a unique position to catch oral cancer not only because it revolves around their expertise, but because you’re more likely to see them than your general practitioner. Biannual exams are important, but it also doesn’t hurt to practice monthly self-exams in the mirror. After locating a well-lit room, be sure to look for:

  • Sores that do not heal in your mouth or neck
  • Red or white patches in the mouth, cheeks, tongue, palate, tonsils, and throat
  • Lumps, bumps, thickenings, rough spots, or crusty/eroded areas of tissue
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, moving your jaw, or speaking
  • Changes in the way that your teeth fit together

Have you had your oral cancer screening completed? Don’t wait; get tested by a Venice dentist today!

About the author

Dr. R. Scott Thompson earned his DDS degree from the Emory University School of Dentistry. His preventive dental exams are intended to catch a wide array of issues, including oral cancer and other systemic conditions. To learn more about his practice, you can contact him through his website.