Every year, April is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. At our dental office in Tuscaloosa, we strive to keep our patients and our neighbors as healthy as possible, so we’d like to join in and help educate our community on the risks of oral cancer, how to identify it, and why it’s best to identify it as early as possible.
- About 49,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a type of oral cancer this year alone
- Over 9,700 will die from oral cancer in 2017
- Only an estimated 57% of those diagnosed this year will still be alive in 5 years
- Patients who have beaten oral cancer once are up to 20 times more likely to develop another form of cancer
One of the main reasons oral cancer is so deadly, and those numbers above are so scary, is that most of the time, oral cancer is caught too late and may have already spread to another part of the body. Unlike other types of cancer, there are no official timing guidelines for screening for oral cancer, like there are for, say, colon or breast cancer. This is one reason why we recommend seeing your dentist in Tuscaloosa at least every six months for a thorough examination. If caught in its early stages, oral cancer can be treated successfully.
Signs & Symptoms
The difficult part to suspecting and diagnosing oral cancer is that its signs and symptoms can disguise themselves as other oral health problems that don’t seem like a big deal, only a minor annoyance. If you notice any of the signs below, call your dentist as soon as you can.
- A sore or discoloration that doesn’t go away after two weeks
- A lump inside the mouth or neck
- Pain while swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Changes in voice
- Chronic bad breath
Understanding the risks that increase the chance of developing oral cancer can go a long way in helping to prevent it. While some risk factors are uncontrollable, there are some that you can control and avoid:
- Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women
- Oral cancer typically develops in those over 40
- About 80% of oral cancer patients are, or have been, tobacco users
- Drinking alcohol heavily also increases your risk
If you suspect you’re at risk for oral cancer or have additional questions, we welcome you to call our Tuscaloosa dental office.