Did you know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month?
I’m guessing you probably didn’t. After all, April is a busy month. There is April Fool’s Day. There is Easter, and Baseball has just started. Hockey playoffs are also underway. In addition, April is the official month of over 30 issues! (If you don’t believe me, check out this link.)
But as far as my dental colleagues and I are concerned, it’s the Oral Cancer Awareness Month. And for good reason.
Oral Cancer is Very Serious.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “This year an estimated 51,550 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed in the US. Of those individuals, 40 percent will not survive longer than five years. The death rate associated with oral and oropharyngeal cancers remains particularly high because the cancers routinely are discovered late in their development.”
In fact it’s so serious, that the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, the American Academy of Oral Medicine, the American Academy of Periodontology, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association all joined the Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of oral cancer and oral cancer screenings that can help with early detection.
Oral Cancer Screenings
To help protect my patients from this danger, oral cancer screenings are part of our biannual exams at Modern Family Dental Care. In addition to a standard exam where we closely examine our patient’s mouth, we also use Velscope. This is an early detection device, that allows me and my staff to see if anything is wrong before it’s too late.
Screenings are also important because when oral cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, patients usually have a more positive prognosis. In other words, if you find it early, the treatments are less invasive. But if you have a late diagnosis, it’s possible that the cancer could spread to other parts of the body, which would make treatment more difficult – and costly.
What you need to know about oral cancer is that there are a variety of risk factors: tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, human papillomavirus and a weakened immune system, can all contribute toward oral cancer.
If you have any of these risk factors, you should visit the Oral Cancer Foundation’s Check Your Mouth™ individual self-discovery initiative at checkyourmouth.org. It will give you tips for doing a self-check at home. In addition to that, you always have a biannual exam so your dentist can make sure your mouth is healthy.
When to Visit Your Dentist ASAP!
You should RUN to the dentist if you have any of these symptoms:
- A sore that doesn’t heal or bleeds
- Thickening of the mouth’s lining
- Jaw pain or painful swallowing
- Sore throat
- Tongue pain
- A painless but firm lump felt on the outside of the neck
If you have any of these symptoms, you should visit one of my offices for an evaluation immediately. Because these are all symptoms of oral cancer.
We all have busy lives, and it’s easy to think of April as something other than Oral Cancer Awareness Month. But it’s important for everyone to understand the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Because early detection can literally save your life or your loved one’s.