April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month, a time when the dental community rallies together to fight against a serious disease. It has been reported that oral and pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat) collectively kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 60% will live longer than five years. In addition, many who do survive end up suffering from long-term problems such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulty eating and speaking.

When caught early, oral cancers have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate. Although we cannot stop this virus from spreading, prevention can save a life. Celebrate National Oral Cancer Awareness Month by scheduling an oral cancer screening with your dentist. The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early when there is a greater chance for a cure.

Are You at Risk?

Some of the risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), sun exposure, diet, betel nut use, and a personal history of oral cancer. However, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals. That’s why it is more important than ever for all adults to have regular oral cancer screenings.

Recognize the Symptoms

Symptoms to watch for include patches inside the mouth or the lips, a sore on the mouth or lips that don't heal, bleeding in the mouth, loose teeth, pain or difficulty swallowing, a lump in the neck, numbness of the lower lip and chin and a persistent earache. Visit your dentist or physician immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer screening is an examination performed by a dentist or doctor to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. The screening itself will consist of a visual inspection of the oral cavity (lips, cheek lining, gums, the front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth) and palpation of the jaw and neck. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.

  • It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests can be administered even when you have no cancer symptoms.

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