Oral Cancer Awareness

Oral Cancer Awareness
Posted on 04/01/2015

Oral Cancer Awareness

Josh Alter DMD, MS

This life threatening disease is projected to affect over 43,000 Americans and cause over 8,000 deaths this year alone. As dentists, we are in a unique position to help prevent, diagnose, and direct care in the fight against oral cancer. Yet, it is estimated that only 60% of the US population seeks routine dental care yearly, and only 25% of dentists actually perform an oral cancer screening exam. To me, this is an astonishing fact. If you were to ask a physician what gives the best outcome and long term prognosis for a patient suffering from any cancer, I’m sure they would say early diagnosis and treatment. Just look at how preventative screening exams such as the PAP smear, mammogram, and prostate exam have dramatically decreased the incidence and mortality associated with their respective cancers.

So, who’s at risk?

  • Tobacco users: Those who smoke cigarettes and cigars, those who use smokeless tobacco (chew and dip), and even those who chew on cigars without ever lighting them.
  • Alcohol abusers: Alcohol abuse is defined as anyone who has more than 21 alcoholic beverages per week
  • Recent studies have strongly linked HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) to oral cancer, specifically the HPV16 variant. There are over 200 strains of HPV and it is estimated that over 80% of the world’s population has or will have an exposure to one of the HPV strains during their lifetime. This virus accounts for the majority of oral cancer presenting itself in the otherwise healthy, young, non-smoking population.

Oral cancers can present themselves in the areas of soft tissue in your mouth including but not limited to the gums, tongue, roof of mouth, cheeks, lips, and throat. If any of the following symptoms present themselves and do not resolve on their own within two weeks, you should see a dental professional for an examination.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bright red and/or white discolorations of soft tissues
  • Ulcers
  • Prolonged voice hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A hard lump on an area that is usually soft such as the floor of the mouth, tongue, throat, or cheeks
  • The feeling of something stuck in your throat
  • Unexplained numbness in your mouth
  • One-sided ear pain
  • A hard, non-moveable lymph node swelling on the neck

At CMB Family Dentistry we have integrated the oral cancer screening into our daily routine. Each patient receives this potentially lifesaving exam at no additional cost, included as a part of their dental exam at the end of each hygiene appointment and new patient exam. We believe in the fact that early diagnosis and treatment greatly decreases the mortality associated with oral cancer. If it has been a while since you have been to the dentist, do not hesitate to give our office a call for an examination. If your dentist is part of the 75% of dentists who do not routinely perform screening exams, ask them!

For additional information visit: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org