April 15, 2022
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month because tooth decay and gum disease may not be the only threats lingering in your mouth. The American Cancer Society reports 11,230 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer annually. Despite the latest advancements in health care, 43% of people won’t survive longer than 5 years, which is attributed to late detection. Contrary to common belief, you don’t have to smoke or use tobacco to be at risk. Oral cancer can occur in anyone, but you can benefit from the power of early detection.
Cases of Oral Cancer on the Rise
About 54,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually, which includes the tongue, tonsils, and oropharynx. However, it can also affect the gums, palate, floor of the mouth, and other oral structures.
Oral cancer is often associated with tobacco use or age, but those aren’t the only risk factors. Cases have been on the rise over the past 2 decades. It’s partly due to the increase of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is associated with oral cancer.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware they have signs of oral cancer because the early symptoms can be subtle. As a result, it isn’t until it has spread to other areas of the body that it’s discovered. While the overall death rate for oral cancer has decreased over the past 30 years, long-term life expectancy can increase with early detection.
Power of Early Detection
Up to 80% of new oral cancer cases can be diagnosed early through routine dental appointments. The American Dental Association recommends a cleaning and checkup every 6 months; however, 42% of Americans don’t see a dentist as often as they should.
Routine appointments are vital for more than just healthy teeth and gums. They allow your dentist to perform an oral cancer screening. They’ll conduct a visual examination to look for any concerns, such as:
- Sores or ulcers that won’t heal.
- Red, white, or black patches on the soft tissues.
- Abnormal bleeding.
- Lumps or hard spots in the soft tissues.
- Raised patches or growths.
- Thickening of the tissue.
Besides a regular oral cancer screening, it’s important to monitor for any changes at home, including:
- Persistent hoarse or sore throat.
- Swollen tonsils on one side.
- Painless, fixed, lumps on the neck.
- Persistent cough.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Persistent earache.
- Sore or ulcers.
- Abnormal patches or growths.
Smoking and HPV aren’t the only contributors to oral cancer. Even if you don’t think you’re at risk, commit to seeing your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup for early detection and peace of mind.
About Dr. Luciano Marini
Dr. Marini earned his dental degree at the University of Connecticut. As a lifelong learner, he regularly furthers his education in all phases of dentistry. As a member of various professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, you can feel confident your smile is in qualified hands. Contact our office today to schedule your oral cancer screening.
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