The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

To help get the word out during Oral Cancer Awareness Month this past April, the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) has been encouraging a national screening campaign, in hopes of eliminating oral cancer.

The OCF reported that more than 43,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer during 2015.

You don’t have to be a smoker or a tobacco user to be at risk for oral cancer: The OCF reports that the fastest growing subset of oral cancer patients tends to be young, healthy, non-smoking individuals who develop oral cancer as a result of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, the CDC reports that HPV is so prevalent that nearly all sexually active men and women contract it at some point during their lives — even those who practice monogamy.

But the best approach to saving lives and fighting oral cancer is through the process of early discovery, which is best achieved with professional involvement and public awareness.

Though the facts surrounding oral cancer can be alarming, don’t be discouraged: The American Dental Association reports that patients can be screened for oral and pharyngeal cancer during a regular dental visit, which is another good reason to visit your dentist every six months!

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research indicates that the stage at which an oral or pharyngeal cancer is diagnosed is critical to the course of the disease, and that it’s more easily treated if it’s detected at its earliest stage.

Obviously, the most significant risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, HPV infection, age (the risk is greater after age 44), gender (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer), ultraviolet light exposure and nutrition (individuals whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruits have a lower incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancer).

A few of the signs and symptoms associated with oral cancer are lumps or a thickening of the oral soft tissues, swelling that affects the comfort and fit of dentures, difficulty chewing or swallowing, difficulty with moving the jaw or tongue, a sore throat or a sensation that something is caught in the throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in the voice.

The ADA reports that an estimated 1 in 92 adults will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in their lifetime. And the OCF states that every day 100 new people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and that one person dies from it every hour.

Remember, your dentist is your first line of defense against oral cancer. So, if it’s been a while since you and your family members have visited the dentist, come and see us. We take care of you.