Waiting young woman lying at dentist roomOral cancer is a very serious disease that affects tens of thousands of people every year. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 48,750 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

If we delve a little further into that number, we’ll see that it works out to roughly 132 new people in the U.S. who will be diagnosed with oral cancer every day.

And, unfortunately, these statistics also showed that a very large number of people will die from this disease every year.

But those same stats also show that if the disease is caught early enough, the survival rate goes up significantly.

This is why the Oral Cancer Foundation established April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Because as serious as this condition is, far too few people are discussing it.

The Best Defense

Awareness of oral cancer is critically important because early detection is the key to treatment.

It all comes down to this: the best defense against oral cancer is prevention.

And prevention is only going to happen when people are fully aware of the problem, it’s dangers, and whether or not they are at risk for it.

Early detection can help to save lives, and that means getting in for your regular appointment.

If you haven’t been in recently, or you haven’t been screened for oral cancer, this month is a great opportunity to take some time and really focus on your dental health.

What are The Risk Factors and Symptoms?

There are a lot of factors that could contribute to a person’s risk for oral cancer. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Tobacco – Even smokeless tobacco can increase the chances of developing oral cancer.
  • Alcohol – This can even more of a risk factor when you use tobacco at the same time.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – This is a sexually-transmitted disease that makes a person far more likely to develop this cancer.
  • Sun exposure – This is usually linked to cancer in the lip area.
  • Poor oral hygiene – People with poor oral hygiene or poorly fitted dentures that regularly irritate the mouth may be at a higher risk for oral cancer.

There are many other conditions that may increase the risk for oral cancer, such as physical trauma, poor nutrition, and other infectious diseases.

Do you have to wait until your next appointment to know whether or not you are at risk?

While it is always important to get a professional to look at the situation, there are a few symptoms that you may be able to spot on your own, including: patches inside the mouth or lips and sores in the mouth that don’t seem to heal.

You may also experience bleeding inside the mouth, loose teeth, unexplained pain or difficulty swallowing. Sometimes a lump in the neck may appear, and you may feel a numbness in the lower lip and chin as well as persistent earaches.

For more detailed information, you can, of course, always talk to us or check out the National Cancer Institute’s website.

April has been an important month because it is a chance to expand the discussion on oral cancer and help our patients understand the importance or regular checkups and screenings so we can take all the necessary preventative measure.