Raising Oral Cancer Awareness in Tuscaloosa

added on: April 12, 2013

Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, I want to talk to my patients about the risks and prevention of oral cancer in Tuscaloosa. It’s not a cancer that gets talked about much, but can be very serious if it’s not caught early. The American Cancer Society states that nearly 35,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed, and nearly 7,000 people will die of oral cancer this year alone. (Source: ACS, revised 02.26.2013).

I certainly don’t want to scare my patients, just make them aware of some of the risks. Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but it’s often caught in later stages when it has likely metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body.

Who Gets Oral Cancer
We can’t predict who will get oral cancer, but we can list some of the factors that can put you at a much higher risk for oral cancer:

● Smoking and other tobacco use. There is no “safe” tobacco product; the risk is just as high for chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars, clove cigarettes, and “smokeless” tobacco. The more you smoke, the higher your risk.
● Alcohol abuse. If you have more than 15 alcoholic drinks a week, it will put you at much higher risk. The combination of smoking and alcohol abuse puts you at 300 times greater risk for oral cancer. (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2006.)
● HPV, the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease known mostly for its role in genital cancers and genital warts, can also cause oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Dental Screening
Regular dental checkups with oral cancer exams are the best way to catch oral cancer early. I check for oral cancer using ViziLite® technology. You swish a special rinse in your mouth, then I use a light that will highlight even the smallest suspect tissue.

If you haven’t had a checkup recently, give us a call at our Tuscaloosa dental office and schedule your appointment today. Information and prevention are the two most important keywords we can give you for a long, healthy, and happy life!