April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. It is estimated that 650,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. In the United States, more than 43, 000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. It is also estimated that one person dies every hour of every day from oral cancer. The five year survival rate after being diagnosed with oral cancer is less than 60%.
What are your risk factors for oral cancer?
It is well known and documented that use of tobacco increases the risk for oral cancer. There is no safe amount of tobacco use. This includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes.
Alcohol consumption is also a high risk factor for oral cancer. Alcohol consumption in moderate to excessive amounts over long periods of time increase your risk for oral cancer. On average this means more than 7 drinks a week if you are female or 14 drinks per week if you are a male.
Alcohol and Smoking together increases your risk for oral cancer 15 fold.
The new face of oral cancer is those who are expose to Human Papilloma Virus-16. This is the same virus that is responsible for ovarian and uterine cancer. Exposure to this virus can affect anyone and at any age. Vaccination with the Gardasil vaccine can greatly reduce your risk for developing cancer related to HPV-16.
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
1. Swelling/thickening, lumps/bumps, spots/crusts on the lips, gums, or other areas in the mouth
2. Velvety white, red, or speckles patches
3. Unexplained bleeding
4. Unexplained Numbness
5. Persistent sores that do not heal within 2 weeks
6. Sore throat that does not resolve
7. Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving jaw or tongue
8. Hoarseness that is chronic
9. Ear Pain
10. Changes in your bite
11. Dramatic Weight Loss
Early diagnosis of oral cancer is the key to effective and long term successful treatment of oral cancer. Early diagnosis can double your chances of survival. Our Highlands Ranch Dentists, Dr. DeLapp and Dr. Parsons make sure to do a visual exam at every dental visit. They may also recommend additional examinations with VELScope. Check out our previous blog on VELscope here.
Call our Highlands Ranch Dental office today at 303-694-9740 and schedule your oral cancer screening! Don’t wait!