If there were a quick and painless way to identify pre-cancerous cells in the mouth of someone you loved, would you want them to try it? What if that person were you? The truth is, as uncomfortable as it may be to even think of the word "cancer," thinking about it, and thus detecting it early, is key. That's why, if you haven't been to the dentist in a while, you should schedule a visit, because while the oral exam that accompanies your cleaning may not be noticeable to you, it's often your earliest line of defense in the detection of oral cancer.
Those at Risk of Oral Cancer
Passing certain age thresholds and engaging in certain lifestyle habits can place you at increased risk for oral cancer.
⦁men tend to have higher rates of oral cancers than women.
⦁patients age 40 and older (95% of all oral cancer cases)
⦁patients age 18-39 who use tobacco, are heavy drinkers, or may have a previous diagnosis of oral HPV infection
If you experience any of the below symptoms lasting more than 7-10 days, please seek the advice of your doctor. Also, keep in mind that aside from an obviously sore throat, the below symptoms can present themselves in the absence of pain. Look out for changes that can be detected in the lips, inside the cheeks, palate, and gum tissue surrounding your teeth and tongue.
⦁reddish or whitish patches in the mouth
⦁a sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
⦁a lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
⦁chronic sore throat hoarseness
⦁difficulty chewing or swallowing
If you do not visit the dentist regularly, you could be missing out on the benefits of early cancer detection. Currently, just over half of all those diagnosed with oral cancer survive more then 5 years- a statistic driven by late diagnosis- so please visit your dentist and get an oral exam at least once a year. If you are considered, "high risk," you should be receiving an oral exam at least every 6 months, if not more frequently.
The below are a list of healthy habits you can start doing now, which may reduce your risk:
⦁avoid all tobacco products
⦁avoid or reduce your consumption of alcohol
⦁consume more fruits and vegetables (good for everything, of course)
⦁avoid excessive sun exposure that can result in cancer of the lips (use a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30)
⦁avoid exposure to environmental hazards (wood dust, formaldehyde, printing chemicals)
⦁conduct a self-exam monthly so you can catch any of the symptoms listed above. Use a small hand-held mirror so you can see the back of your mouth and tongue.
⦁consider coffee. some researchers suggest coffee may help protect the mouth from oral cancer
Oral cancer is serious business. Yet, it can be managed when caught early. So, do the right thing and visit your dentist regularly, and get that screening. Here at Sofferdentistry you will get an oral cancer screening at every cleaning visit.