Integrative Health Blog

Oral Cancer is Not Just a Problem for Smokers

Posted by Laurie DeRosa RDH on Mon, Apr 07, 2014

More than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, oral cancer is more common than leukemia, skin melanoma, and cancers of the brain, liver, bone, thyroid, ovaries, and cervix.  It is a major cause of disfigurement and death in the United States. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so now is a good time to learn the signs or oral cancer and get screened as part of your holistic dental check up.

oral_cancer_dental_screeningOral cancer includes cancers found in the mouth, on the tongue, lips, throat, parts of the nose, and larynx.  Seventy five percent of these cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol.  Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to a subset of oral cancers.

Current Statistics on Oral Cancer:

One American dies every hour from oral cancer

The oral cancer survival rate has not changed for over 40 years

Currently, 70% of oral cancer lesions are identified in late stages

If detected early, oral cancer has a survival rate of 80-90%

The risk of oral cancer occurs in men more than women, is higher in African American men, and more often in people over the age of 40. 

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer may include the following:

  • A sore in the mouth that will not heal
  • A chronic sore throat
  • A red or white patch that does not go away after 2 weeks
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • A chronic sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Changes in the voice
  • A lump or mass in the neck
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Pain in one ear without hearing loss

If a person has any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks they should see their  holistic dentist for an oral cancer exam.  In addition to the dentist's visual examination, at NIHA we use Vizilite® Plus, a technology to assist in the early detection of oral abnormalities. Abnormal areas that might not be seen in a conventional examination are more clearly identified with Vizilite. These areas can then be evaluated and monitored. The test is quick and painless and is particularly important for patients with increased risk factors for oral cancer, such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol use. However, often the above symptoms do not mean cancer.  They could mean an infection or another problem.  However, the symptoms should be checked out because early detection and treatment of oral cancer improves the survival rate and can mean the difference between life and death.


Laurie_DeRosa_dental_hygienistLaurie DeRosa  RDH is a Registered Dental Hygienist with the holistic dental   team at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, an integrative medicine and dental center serving the Washington DC metro area. Using the latest in dental technology, her goal is to help the dental patient understand the important connection between their oral health and overall health.

Topics: cancer, holistic dentistry