These are some grim statistics, but here is the ugly truth: Oral Cancer is responsible for one death every single hour in North America, and somewhere in the range of 30,000-40,000 people will be diagnosed with it this year. Oral Cancer is diagnosed visually, and has been for the past 40 years, but most visually-diagnosed lesions are already at stage III or beyond, when the 5-year diagnosis rate is only about 50%. If detected early, the expected survival rate is 92%!
Main contributors to developing Oral Cancer are: Smoking Tobacco (any form… cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco), Smokeless Tobacco (“snuff”, “dip”), and HPV- human papillomavirus. That’s the same virus implicated in causing Cervical Cancer, but more women get Oral Cancer than Cervical Cancer, and Oral Cancer has THREE TIMES the incidence and DOUBLE the death rate. The HPV connection sheds light on the 60% increase in Oral Cancer in young patients, 18-39 years old, over the past 5 years. Heavy drinking and excessive sun exposure are also risk factors, and of course, those with a family history of cancer or who are obese are at an increased risk for cancer in general.
Signs and Symptoms – What to Look For:
- Swelling, lumps, crusty rough patches or erosion anywhere in the mouth.
- Velvety white or red (or white and red) patches in the mouth.
- Unexplained numbness/tingling or tenderness and pain in and around the mouth or face and neck.
- Persistent sores in the mouth that do not heal.
- Unexplained bleeding.
- Difficulty swallowing or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
- Problems chewing, speaking, moving the jaw or tongue.
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, voice changes.
- Changes in bite/the way your teeth fit together, or the way dentures fit or bite together.
- Ear pain.
- Dramatic, unexplained weight loss.
Prevention – What to Do:
- Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco! If you smoke, get serious about quitting.
- Don’t drink or drink in moderation!
- Eat an overall nutritious diet and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle!
- Avoid too much sun exposure!
- Take precautions to avoid contracting HPV (including: monogamy, abstinence, protected sex, and vaccination) See this slideshow article for details.
You should also examine your own mouth once a month, pulling it open to inspect inner cheeks, tongue, roof… all surfaces, in good lighting, and see your dentist regularly. An oral cancer exam is recommended once every three years for those age 20 to 39 , and every year after that. If cancer is detected, catching it early and having it treated immediately will make a big difference!
At Mall of Georgia Dentistry, we are still offering patients a discounted VizilLte exam through the end of April, priced at $30, it’s a 40% discount. For NEW patients, we are offering complimentary ViziLite screening with your New Patient Exam and X-rays. ViziLite makes small or subtle abnormalities show up and become more visible with special lighting.
We encourage you to pursue good health through lifestyle, monitoring, and early detection… though of course we hope there is nothing to detect!