Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Every hour of every day, someone will die of oral cancer. An estimated 54,000 new cases arise each year - and because this type of cancer is often discovered at a late stage, the death rate remains high. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and our dentists are encouraging our patients to pay attention to the common signs and symptoms associated with this potentially deadly disease.
Dr. Christian Berdy is joining the WJXT team on Saturday, April 24, 2021 to share risk factors and signs of oral cancer, how you can help prevent it, and when to see a professional.
Oral Cancer and Who it Affects
- Approximately 54,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year, that breaks down to about 132 U.S. citizens being diagnosed with it daily. That’s why every April, we observe Oral Cancer Awareness Month and help educate the public about this disease.
- Oral cancer presents most often as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
- This type of cancer is twice as common in men as in women, with two-thirds of individuals with oral cancer over age 55. In fact, the average age at diagnosis is 62 – although oral cancer occurs in younger people as well.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
- In many cases, cancer can arise without any warning sign or cause, and this disease is no exception. However, the following two factors are responsible for approximately 90 percent of oral cancer cases:
- Tobacco use
- This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and more
- Excessive alcohol use
- Heavy drinking, even without the combination of tobacco, can still put you at risk
- Some other risk factors include:
- Prolonged sun exposure, especially on the lip area
- Fair skin
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor diet/nutrition
- Weakened immune system
- Marijuana use
- Surprisingly another growing cause of oral cancer is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), the most commonly sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. Specifically, HPV16 is the strain of the virus that can cause oropharyngeal cancers, which affect the very back of the mouth, including the base of the tongue, the back of throat and tonsils.
- Tobacco use
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Oral cancer can manifest in a variety of ways – from your lips, gums, tongue, roof and floor of your mouth to the inner lining of your cheeks.
- Some of the most common signs to look for include:
- sores that do not heal
- loose teeth
- unexplained difficulty swallowing
- white, red or black patches inside your mouth.
- While canker sores or scratchy throats are normal and rarely any reason to worry, if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it could be an indication of a bigger issue.
Oral Cancer Detection Best Practices
- One of the best steps you can take in catching oral cancer at an early stage – and in caring for your dental health overall – is to visit your dentist regularly. It is recommended to schedule dental appointments at least every six months, or more if you notice anything unusual.
- It’s also important to practice consistent dental hygiene to limit the amount of plaque and bacteria buildup that could potentially lead to infection, thus allowing your immune system to defend your body from other potential illness or infection.
At Berdy Dental Group, we provide oral cancer screenings at every dental check-up. During these routine exams, we take a close look at your tongue, inner cheeks and more to check for any signs of cancerous or precancerous growth. While a trip to the dentist may seem daunting, this month is a great reminder of how important it is to still make sure you’re squeezing in those regular check-ups.