When’s the last time you had an oral cancer screening? If you don’t know, you have a lot of company.
At the same time, if you are a patient at Panama City Smiles, it was probably during your last dental cleaning and exam. We conduct these screenings as a part of your routine checkups at our office.
Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to share some information about this disease, which kills 1 person roughly every hour in the United States. It doesn’t have to be that way. Early detection makes a big difference in survival rates, and you can do something about the most common causes of this form of cancer.
Either way, if you haven’t already scheduled your next dental appointment, call 850-588-0185 to visit our Panama City, FL office.
Be A Survivor
You don’t want oral cancer. We don’t want anyone to have oral cancer either. Nevertheless, more than 130 people find out they have this disease on an average day in the U.S.
The sooner you find out, the better because this will greatly improve the likelihood of successful treatment. A standard measure of this for cancer patients is the five-year survival rate. For oral cancer patients who are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, the five-year survival rate is 57 percent. When it is detected in the early stage, the survival rate is between 80 and 90 percent, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.
When you visit our office, we’ll be watching for anything suspicious that we might see. We’ll let you know if we notice anything, so you can contact your doctor to find out if testing is needed. This is definitely a case where we would encourage you to be safe rather than sorry.
With that in mind, you also should be familiar with some common signs that you should talk to your doctor about oral cancer:
- Mouth sores that don’t heal after weeks
- Lumps or rough spots in the mouth or neck
- Constant sore throat or hoarse feeling
- Problems speaking, swallowing, and eating
- Patches of red or white soft tissues in your mouth
What You Can Do
From a preventive point of view, there is a lot you can do — or rather not do — that will reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. Doctors are able to identify contributing factors in 9 out of 10 cases of oral cancer. That means there is still a chance you could develop this disease for unknown reasons, but the major risk factors are well known.
By conservative estimates, tobacco use plays a role in 75 percent of newly diagnosed cases. Quitting tobacco or, better yet, never using it is the best option here.
Drinking 21 or more alcoholic drinks per week is another common risk factor. This is even worse when alcohol and tobacco use are combined. Alcohol can dry out the soft tissue of the mouth, which makes it easier for them to absorb carcinogenic chemicals found in tobacco products.
The third most common risk factor is the human papillomavirus, specifically HPV-16. This is the same strain known to raise the risk of cervical cancer in women. It’s also why health experts recommend getting children vaccinated against this virus around age 12. (Ask your doctor if you have questions about the HPV vaccine.)
Take Control Of Your Oral Health
Just you should be proactive in fighting cavities and gum disease, you also should get regular dental checkups for oral cancer screenings. You can get them by visiting Panama City Smiles. Call 850-588-0185 or contact us online to request an appointment.