April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month: How Familiar Are You With This Deadly Disease?
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), an estimated 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Because this type of cancer usually goes undiagnosed until its late stages, survival rates for oral cancer are particularly low. The goal of Oral Cancer Awareness Month is to encourage people to visit their dentist for a screening, as early detection is the key for effective, life-saving treatment.
McLean DDS is urging patients to schedule their routine oral cancer exams. Remember, early detection can save your life!
Know the Risk Factors
Everyone is at risk for developing oral cancer, but there are certain lifestyle choices that can elevate your chances. These include:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Drinking alcohol excessively, especially when combined with tobacco use
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Poor eating habits
- Exposure to HPV (human papillomavirus), a sexually-transmitted disease
Recognize the Symptoms
In its early stages, oral cancer is generally painless, and for this reason often goes undetected. This is why regular visits to your dentist are critical for successfully diagnosing and treating early signs of oral cancer. Your dentist can often identify abnormalities in your oral tissues, even in the early stages before symptoms occur.
In addition to visiting your dentist twice a year for checkups, you should also perform a self-exam at home every month to look for signs of oral cancer. Use a light and mirror to check your tongue, cheek, lip and gums for common symptoms including:
- Red or white lesions in the mouth
- A sore or irritation in your mouth that doesn’t go away
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
- A lump on the lip, mouth, neck or throat — or a thickening of the cheek
- Teeth that are loose for no apparent dental reason
- A mass or lump in the neck
- Pain or difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible for an oral cancer screening. While many of these symptoms may be due to other, less serious conditions, your dentist can best identify the underlying cause of your mouth pain and irritations.
Play an Active Role In Prevention
The best way to reduce your risk for developing oral cancer is to eliminate risk factors that you can control. Additionally, you can play a proactive role in identifying early oral cancer symptoms by conducting a monthly self-exam and visiting your dentist twice a year for routine checkups.
Get Screened — Contact McLean DDS
McLean DDS performs oral cancer screenings at every cleaning appointment and now has a new diagnostic tool called OralID that helps us detect cell abnormalities sooner.
Your dentist is often the first health care provider to notice early signs of oral cancer. By maintaining your regular dental appointments, McLean DDS can complete timely oral cancer screenings, identify potential problems early and ensure you receive life-saving treatment as quickly as possible. If you have been putting off routine appointments, don’t wait any longer! Contact our office today to schedule your next screening.