April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
What is Oral Cancer?
Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. In the simplest terms, oral cancer is any cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses and pharynx.
- According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.
- Worldwide, the problem is much greater, with new cases exceeding 650,000 annually.
- One person will die every hour of every day 24/7/365 from oral cancer in the US.
Who is at Risk of Oral Cancer?
While historically the majority of people were over the age of 40 at the time of discovery, it is now occurring more frequently in those under this age. Exact causes for those affected at a younger age are now becoming clearer in research, revealing a viral cause; the human papilloma virus number 16 (HPV16).
- The fastest growing population of the oral cancer population are those who have been diagnosed with HPV16 and young Non-Smokers.
Which means, do NOT wait until you are in your 40s to be screened! Remember, early detection can save your life! (see more about screening and early detection below)
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
- A sore, lump or ulcer on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
- A lump on the lip or in the mouth A lump in the neck
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth
- Unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth
- Oral pain that does not go away or a feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty with jaw opening
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- Tooth loosening
- Bad breath
- Sensory loss of the face
- Abnormal taste in the mouth
- Swallowing difficulty
How Can You Check for Oral Cancer?
You can and SHOULD have an Oral Cancer screening performed by your dentists or hygienist.
At Northstar Family Dental, we use an innovative tool that utilizes light technology to enhance visualization of mucosal abnormalities such as oral cancer or premalignant dysplasia that may not be apparent to the naked eye. And unlike other fluorescence technologies and dye systems, our tool is Multi-Spectral with three distinct color wavelengths, making it easier to distinguish lesion morphology and vasculature aiding the dental professional in determining next steps.
In other words, we can complete a painless, non-invasive screening in a matter of minutes that can provide you with peace of mind. Or more importantly, can allow for early detection of suspicious tissue, in which case the proper next steps can be taken to ensure the most positive outcome.
Please consider completing an Oral Cancer screening during your next dental visit. And encourage your loved ones to do so as well. Currently, 40% of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years because the majority of these cases will be discovered as a late stage malignancy. Help us make a positive shift in the percentages.