How much do you know about oral cancer? If your answer is, "not very much," now is a great time to learn. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and that means that you should work on increasing your awareness of how oral cancer may affect you. Take a look at some facts that you need to know about this particularly dangerous form of cancer.
Why is Oral Cancer So Deadly?
Of course, it goes without saying that any type of cancer is dangerous. However, many types of cancer are very treatable when caught early enough, so the implementation of early screening procedures has reduced the deadly impact of certain cancers. Unfortunately, oral cancer is one that is often not diagnosed until it's reached the later and more malignant stages of the disease. As a result, a patient with oral cancer dies every hour of every day.
You don't have to become a statistic of oral cancer, however. If you're aware of your risk factors and you seek out early screening, you can ensure that if you develop oral cancer, you will find out about it while it's still treatable and the survival rates are high.
Are You At Risk?
If you're a senior citizen, it's smart to have an oral cancer screening.
There are a number of risk factors to consider when determining who is likely to develop oral cancer. Men are at more risk than women, and senior citizens are more likely to develop the disease than younger patients. Patients who have already experienced some form of head or neck cancer are at higher risk than patients who have never had cancer. If you work outdoors or are otherwise exposed to a lot of ultraviolet rays, you're at more risk of cancer than someone who spends their days indoors.
A specific strain of the Human Papilloma Virus, HPV-16, has also been identified as a major risk factor for oral cancer. This strain of HPV is the same strain that's responsible for many instances of cervical cancer in women. But by far, some of the biggest risks are lifestyle factors. Tobacco users are at great risk for oral cancer. This includes those who chew tobacco or use snuff, as well as those who smoke. Heavy alcohol use is also thought to be a risk factor for oral cancer. If you have any risk factors for the disease, it's especially important that you schedule an oral cancer screening.
Oral Cancer Screening Process
An oral cancer screening is no more difficult than an ordinary dental exam.
Luckily, being screened for oral cancer is easy. Your dentist can perform an oral cancer screening during one of your regular annual checkups. The dentist will look inside your mouth for suspicious patches or discolored spots, and use his gloved hand to feel inside your mouth for lumps or other abnormalities.
If the dentist finds something concerning, they may choose to do additional tests. You may be asked to rinse your mouth with a rinse that contains a special dye; when you spit it out, the dye will cling to abnormal cells, highlighting where a problem may be. Or, the dentist may shine a light in your mouth that makes any abnormal tissues stand out.
There's no time like the present to be screened for oral cancer. To make an appointment, call us today.