There is a lot of attention paid to various types of cancer, but we often overlook a particular kind that is still incredibly dangerous: oral cancer. It’s hard to figure out why we ignore it, especially when the five year mortality rate is over 50 percent, making it one of the top ten most deadly forms of cancer.
April is oral cancer awareness month, and here at New Albany Implants we want to do our part to raise awareness of this often deadly disease. With more awareness for this uncommon but deadly form of cancer we hope we can keep our patients and members of our community safe.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Like all other forms of cancer, the oral variety is an uncontrollable growth of cells that spreads and damages other tissue. It’s particularly dangerous because of how hard it is to identify, leading many patients to not receive a diagnosis until it has already metastasized elsewhere in the body.
Oral cancer is usually asymptomatic for a long time, and once symptoms start to become visible to the naked eye it’s usually already becoming serious. That doesn’t mean you can’t identify it earlier but it is much more difficult.
Identifying Oral Cancer
The best way to catch oral cancer is to have regular professional dental exams. By seeing you every six months we’ll be able to keep an eye on any changes that might indicate cancerous growth and recommend treatment right away.
If you’re at risk for cancer of any kind you should consider doing a self exam about once a month. Use a flashlight and a dental mirror to check all the hard-to-see surfaces of your mouth, especially under the tongue. Keep an eye out for:
- sores in the mouth that won’t heal
- spots that appear swollen, lumpy, rough, or crusted
- unexplained bleeding that doesn’t appear to be gum disease related
- white spots in the mouth
- numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling in the mouth, jaw, face, or neck
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- a constant feeling that something is stuck in the back of your throat
- bleeding sores on the lips, mouth, or face that won’t seem to heal
Who Is At Risk For Oral Cancer?
Cancer can strike anyone regardless of background, age, or lifestyle. Some risk factors make it much more likely that you’ll end up with it, but keep in mind that they’re just risk factors: proper care and prevention is important for everyone.
That said, oral cancer risks skyrocket for people who:
- use tobacco (both smokers and smokeless users)
- drink heavily
- get excess sun exposure
- have a family history of any kind of cancer
- carry the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
If you fall into any of these categories be sure to stay on top of your preventive measures and dental checkups – it could be a huge difference in your life!
Preventing Oral Cancer
There are steps you can take to prevent oral cancer, most obviously quitting tobacco use and cutting back on alcohol consumption. But those aren’t the only ways to reduce your cancer risk. Regular dental exams, monitoring your sun exposure, and even eating a healthy diet can make a huge difference.
Our New Albany dentist office conducts routine oral cancer exams when you come for appointments, so with regular attendance you won’t have to worry about cancer catching you unexpectedly! If we do identify potential cancerous spots we’ll take a biopsy and use it to make a diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with oral cancer there’s no reason to lose hope, especially if we catch it early. Modern dental technology allows us to see oral cancer before it’s ever visible to the naked eye. Using specialized lights, dyes, and other tools we can “paint” cancer cells and see them early enough to make a huge difference.
Oral cancer is frightening because of its diagnosis difficulty. If we can use modern technology to overcome that hurdle we may just be one step closer to keeping you safe and healthy, and that’s what we’re here for!
Regular Exams Equal A Healthy Mouth
Don’t delay making an appointment, especially during oral cancer awareness month. An hour out of your day could save your smile and even your life!