April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, and more than 8,000 deaths occur annually. The five-year survival rate for oral cancers is roughly 50%.  Early diagnosis makes a tremendous difference in life expectancy and oral cancer is 90% curable when found in it’s early stages.

Risk Factors

  • Tobacco and Alcohol: Tobacco and alcohol use are among the strongest risk factors for oral cavity and oropharyngeal (back of the throat) cancers. The risk of these cancers is even higher in people who both use tobacco and drink alcohol. According to some studies, the risk of these cancers in heavy drinkers and smokers may be as much as 100 times more than the risk of these cancers in people who use tobacco or drink.
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection: Human Papilloma Virus is a group of more than 150 types of viruses. This sexually transmitted disease is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer. People diagnosed with cancer linked to HPV infection tend to be younger and are less likely to be smokers and drinkers.
  • Gender: Men are twice as likely to get oral and oropharyngeal cancers than women. 

Warning Signs

Please see your dentist immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. The symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Sores in the mouth that bleed easily or do not heal
  • A thick or hard spot or lump
  • A roughened or crusted area
  • Numbness, pain or tenderness

In our practice we do an oral cancer screening as part of the new patient evaluation, and each time a patient comes in for a routine hygiene visit, an oral cancer screening is completed.