April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and we’d like to educate you about this deadly disease. About 50,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Sadly, one person dies of the disease every hour of every day. Forty percent of people afflicted will pass away within 5 years of diagnosis.
Did you know that when you come for your regular cleanings and exams at Uptown Dental Associates, you are not being checked just for cavities and periodontal disease? An oral cancer screening is a standard part of our examination. And early detection matters.
To schedule a checkup with Uptown Dental Associates, call our Albuquerque, NM office at 505-407-8781.
How It Begins
Cancers of the mouth may appear on the lips, tongue, inside of the cheeks, mouth floor, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. The cancer may initially appear as a growth or sore that won’t go away. Other oral cancer symptoms include:
- Red or white lesions
- The feeling of a lump in your throat
- Swellings that interfere with your dentures
- Numbness or pain anywhere in your mouth
- Difficulty speaking or eating
- Unexplained loose teeth
- Persistent sore throat
- Jaw stiffness
It’s important to understand the risk factors for developing cancers of the mouth. While some may be out of your control, others are not.
- Smoking is a big one. This terrible habit puts you at risk for several different cancers. In fact, most people who develop a mouth cancer smoke. And chewing tobacco increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips. If you need help quitting, a good place to start is this guide from the American Cancer Society.
- About 70% of diagnosed patients are heavy drinkers. When you are a smoker and drinker, your chances of developing a mouth cancer may be as much as one hundred times greater than someone who doesn’t drink or smoke.
- Infection with HPV, or the human papillomavirus is linked to an increased risk. HPV DNA is found in about two-thirds of oropharyngeal cancers and in some oral cavity cancers. The good news is that oropharyngeal cancers that do contain HPV DNA have a better outlook than the cancers without.
- Men are at higher risk than women, possibly because they are more likely to have a history of alcohol and tobacco use.
- Most oral cancer patients are older than 55, though the demographic may be changing due to the increase in HPV-linked cancers.
- Prolonged exposure to UV light (typically from the sun) increases your likelihood of developing lip cancer.
- A poor diet lacking fresh fruits and vegetables may raise your risk.
- Oral cancers are more likely to develop in people who have compromised or weakened immune systems.
Your regular dental checkup may be the first step in detecting and combating oral cancer. If you’ve noticed a concerning sore or legion or any of the other symptoms listed above, we suggest you make an appointment right away, even if you’re not due for a cleaning and exam.