Oral Cancer Facts: The Oral Cancer Foundation states that one person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day in the United States alone. Over 300,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, worldwide. This serious dental disease which pertains to the mouth, lips or throat is often highly curable if diagnosed and treated in the early stages.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors: Tobacco use is the number one risk factor in oral cancer. Studies show that at least 75% of those diagnosed were either current or former tobacco users. Heavy use of alcohol among tobacco users has been proven to have a 15% greater risk of developing oral cancer than tobacco users that aren't heavy alcohol users. Age and prolonged exposure to radiation or sunlight are contributing factors as well. The Human Papillomavirus, better known as HPV has now been proven to cause oral cancer. With this virus spreading rapidly, the numbers of diagnosed cases will likely triple in the next 10 years. Anyone who is sexually active is now considered high risk.
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms: Unfortunately, in its early stages, oral cancer can go unnoticed. Oral Cancer could look like a common ulcer, cold sore or a discoloration of tissue. Fortunately, your dentist can see or feel if a lesion looks cancerous. If you have any type of lesion in your mouth, or on your lips, that doesn't heal within two weeks, or a difficulty in swallowing for a prolonged period of time, it is very important to see your dentist right away.
Oral Cancer Treatment: If your dentist does find a suspicious lesion in your mouth, he/she might remove it, but will most likely send you to a specialist for removal and biopsy, which is a painless procedure. If oral cancer is detected early enough, it could possibly be treated with surgery alone. Radiation combined with surgery would likely be used if the cancer is in its advanced stages.
Oral Cancer Prevention: The best preventions of oral cancer are not to use tobacco of any kind and only drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid prolonged exposure to sun or use a sunscreen on your lips. Visit your dentist every 6 months for regular check ups. You should also have your dentist do annual wellness checkups which include oral cancer screenings by ViziLite Plus and other screening/testing methods as well. When your dentist examines your mouth at your routine check up appointments, he/she is also screening you for oral cancer. This process only takes about 90 seconds and consists of visual examination for any presence of cancer. During the anuual wellness checkups and cancer screenings your dentist will have you rinse with a solution and then do a test with a light source that illuminates even the smallest of cancer cells. This process is fairly inexpensive and takes less than 5 minutes from start to finish. This test should be done once per 12 months in addition to your routine check ups every 6 months.
Oral Cancer Summary: Although the number of deaths each year from oral cancer is astounding, it is hightly curable if diagnosed early. Prevention is a key factor in oral cancer and a 90 second dental examination and a simple test could very well save your life.
Mansell Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
10525 Old Alabama Connector Rd., Suite 103
Alpharetta, GA 30022