April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and for this reason, we at Boulevard Dental Associates would like to make you aware of the symptoms and risk factors associated with oral cancer. Did you know that this year, 10,030 may die from oral cancer, says the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Mouth Healthy Article, “Oral Cancer”? The article ads that the 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed with oral cancer is 60 percent. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Another ADA Mouth Healthy article, “Top 5 Risk Factors for Oral Cancer” explains that changing potentially harmful habits can reduce your chances to develop oral cancer, and regular trips to the dentist can help you detect these cancers early.
SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CANCER:
The ADA Mouth Healthy article, “Oral Cancer” explains that oral cancer is divided into two categories – those occurring in the oral cavity (your lips, the inside of your lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, the front two-thirds of your tongue and the floor and roof of your mouth) and those occurring in the oropharynx (middle region of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue). This same article advises you to be aware of the following symptoms that can occur in these areas and to see your dentist about these symptoms if they don’t disappear after two weeks.
- A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
- A sore throat, a feeling like something is caught in your throat or numbness
- A change in your voice
RISK FACTORS OF ORAL CANCER:
The ADA Mouth Healthy article, “Top 5 Risk Factors for Oral Cancer,” lists the following risk factors for oral cancer:
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV):
This sexually transmitted disease is now associated with about 9,000 diagnosed cases per year of head and neck cancer in the U.S. (specifically those occurring at the back of the tongue, in or around the tonsils). These diagnosed individuals tend to be younger and nonsmokers. That said, they do have a lower risk of death or recurrence in spite of the fact that these cancers are often diagnosed later due to being located in areas difficult to detect.
Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer. This is attributed to the higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use by men, though more younger men are now being diagnosed with HPV-related forms of oral cancer.
Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are 55 years of age or older, though as mentioned above, HPV-related oral cancers are often diagnosed in those who are younger.
Tobacco use dramatically increases your risk of oral cancer. Smoking puts you at risk both for oral cancer and other cancers. Pipe smoking puts you at higher risk for developing cancer of the lips as well. And smokeless tobacco (such as chew) can lead to cancer of the cheeks, gums and lips.
Seven out ten oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking is defined as an average of two drinks a day or more for men and an average of more than one drink a day for women.
The dental team at Boulevard Dental Associates regularly evaluates our patients for oral cancer. We ask about changes in medical history, about any new or unusual symptoms, and we also regularly check your oral cavity. If something is found, the ADA article, “Oral Cancer,” explains that your dentist may refer you for testing or they may reexamine you a week or two later to see if the questionable spots heal on their own or not. If treatment is deemed necessary, your dentist will discuss the best course of action with you.
No one ever wants to hear the word “cancer.” That said, there are definite steps you can take to avoid the risk of oral cancer. In addition, your ability to detect the symptoms of oral cancer, and regular visits to your dentist for early detection can decrease the risks associated with oral cancer. In short, brushing and flossing are not enough—take steps today to avoid oral cancer!
ADA. Oral Cancer. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer. Accessed April 12, 2021.
ADA. Top 5 Risk Factors for Oral Cancer. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/Oral-Cancer-Slideshow?utm_source=mouthhealthyorg&utm_medium=mhrotator&utm_content=oral-cancer-awareness. Accessed April 12, 2021.