How Much Do You Know About Oral Cancer?

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is not a cancer that most people know much about. According to a recent John’s Hopkins University newsletter, it is expected that this year in the United States alone 35,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed. Oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer can develop in the cheeks, lips, gums, tongue, throat (at the back of the mouth), tonsils and roof of the mouth. Many times oral cancers can be prevented with certain lifestyle measures. While no one is exempt, those most at risk include people who smoke, drink excessive alcohol, have HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, also know to cause cervical cancer), overexposure to sunlight, those age 55+, and are male. Poor oral hygiene and gum disease have also been implicated as risk factors. Some studies even suggest that diets low in fruits and vegetables can elevate cancer risk.
When oral cancer is found early, treatment can be successful 82% of the time. Unfortunately, when compared to the survival rate of other cancers, the survival rate of oral cancer has improved minimally over the past 30 years. Experts recommend regular self exams and an exam annually by a dental professional to improve your odds of early detection. To perform a self exam, use a mirror to take a close look at your lips, gums, insides of the cheeks, tongue, back of the throat, and floor and roof of the mouth. See your doctor if you find sores especially those that bleed easily, any color changes particularly those that present as red or white patches, loose teeth or a change in how teeth fit together, mouth pain that doesn’t improve, a persistent sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in your throat, problems chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or a feeling of a mass in your throat or neck that persists for more than two weeks.
Because early detection is key to survival, it is important to see your dentist regularly. Dr. Glass and Cindie perform an oral cancer screening each time you visit our office for your routine dental cleaning and exam. We are able to take the screening process one step further with ViziLite Plus. The ViziLite Plus exam is a painless screening that we can perform in just a few minutes. ViziLite Plus uses a light source to improve the examiners ability to detect abnormalities that will require further evaluation. It often picks up lesions that would have been difficult to detect under normal lighting. We recommend a ViziLite exam for all of our patients who fall under a higher risk category, but with 25% of oral cancers occurring in people who don’t smoke and who have no other risk factors, everyone can benefit from the screening annually.

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4 thoughts on “How Much Do You Know About Oral Cancer?

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