April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
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.
Oral 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 in the U.S.
The oral cancer survival rate has not changed for over 40 years and is approximately 50%.
Currently, 70% of oral cancer lesions are identified in the late stages.
If detected early, oral cancer has a survival rate of 80-90%.
Oral cancer occurs in men more often than women, in people over the age of 40, and is higher in African American men.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer may include the following:
A chronic sore throat
A red or white patch that does not go away after 2 weeks
Difficulty chewing or swallowing
Numbness of the tongueChanges in the voice
A lump or mass in the neck
Pain in one ear without hearing loss
If a person has any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks they should see their dentist for an oral cancer exam. The above symptoms do not necessarily mean cancer; but there could be an infection or other problem. However, the symptoms should be checked out because early detection is important and can mean the difference between life and death.
At NIHA holistic family dental, your dentist will do an oral cancer screening at every check up. If necessary, we have an advanced screening tool called Visilite. We have been told by many patients that the oral screening done by our dentist is the first screening they have ever had. It is a thorough check of the oral tissues, tongue and back of the throat. A complete oral cancer screening should be part of every patient's dental care.
Laurie DeRosa, RDH, is a Registered Dental Hygienist at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, an integrative medicine and holistic family dental center serving the Washington, D.C. 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 their overall health.