Every year, dental professionals across the nation dedicate the month of April to raising oral cancer awareness. As we prepare for the 15th Annual Oral Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to educate all of my patients at my Chapel Hill dental office on the dangers of this deadly disease.
Around 42,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Of the 42,000 individuals, only about 57% will survive 5 years after diagnosis. The death rate associated with oral cancer is not because it’s difficult to diagnose; it’s because it is often discovered late in its development. This is one main reason why everyone at my dental office in Chapel Hill places so much emphasis on maintaining routine checkups.
Sometimes, signs and symptoms of oral cancer can be difficult to notice. In its early stages, oral cancer can be painless and physical changes may not be so obvious. However, our team is trained to see or feel the changes in the tissues in your mouth and can help catch oral cancer early. A regular dental visit routine along with performing at-home checks is your best way to ensure an early diagnosis and, therefore, a better chance of surviving.
So what exactly would you be looking for at home in between your regular checkups? Some common signs of oral cancer listed by the American Dental Association include:
– White or red patches inside your mouth or on your lips
– A sore on your lip or in your mouth that won’t heal
– Difficulty or pain when swallowing
– A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust, or small eroded area
In addition to keeping up with your visits to your Chapel Hill dentist and checking your mouth for symptoms at home, there are several factors that can increase your risk for developing oral cancer. People who are heavier drinkers and smokers and are older than 50 are at especially high risk. Additionally, the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, has been shown to increase the incidence of mouth cancer.
If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms we’ve discussed here, don’t ignore them! Call my Chapel Hill dental office to schedule an appointment as soon as you can. Additionally, if you’re overdue for a checkup, or if you’re at increased risk for oral cancer due to the risk factors we’ve discussed, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. Remember, early diagnosis is key to survival!