Think you don’t know anyone who has had oral cancer? Well, you might recognize some of these names: Michael Douglas, Michael Medved, Babe Ruth, Diane Von Furstenberg, George Harrison, President Grover Cleveland and Sigmund Freud to name only a few. Of course, the disease is not limited to celebrities, politicians and athletes. Oral cancer strikes people in all walks of life. Fortunately, there is something you can do. Have an oral cancer screening at the dentist in State College. And because April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, there’s no better time than right now.
Oral Cancer Statistics
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 49,750 people in the United States will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year. That means that every day 132 new people are diagnosed. Sadly, one person dies of oral cancer every hour of every day of every year. That’s more than 8,000 per year just in the U.S. Many of those deaths could have been prevented with an oral cancer screening.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Certain behaviors put you at greater risk for developing oral cancer. Two of the major risk factors are smoking and tobacco use. Add excessive alcohol consumption and your risk is even higher. And while the majority of people diagnosed are over the age of 40, the fastest growing population among oral cancer patients is healthy, non-smoking men and women that have HPV infection.
Other risk factors include:
- Ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or tanning beds
- Diets that are low in fruits and vegetables
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Previous radiation exposure to the head and neck
- A history of cancer of the mouth, head and neck
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
At your twice-yearly dental checkups, your State College dentist looks carefully for signs and symptoms of oral cancer. You should be aware of these as well so you can be on the lookout during the time between office visits. Included are:
- A sore anywhere on your lips or in your mouth that hasn’t healed in more than two or three weeks
- A red or white patch that can be smooth or scaly
- A lump in any soft tissue in your mouth or neck
- Loose teeth or ill-fitting dentures
- Ear pain but no sign of infection
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- A numb spot inside or around your mouth
- A stiff, sore or swollen jaw area
- A hoarse voice or change in the sound of your voice
- Feeling as if something is stuck in your throat
Oral Cancer Screening
To find these signs, the dentist and staff will visually examine the inside and outside of your lips, looking for lesions or lumps. Your mouth will be thoroughly checked and you’ll be asked to lift your tongue and move it from side to side. Finally, the dentist will palpate along your neck, jaw and collarbone to detect lumps.
If you notice any of oral cancer’s warning signs listed above, then please contact your dentist immediately. Don’t wait for your next scheduled appointment. A simple screening may be all that’s necessary to save your life!
About Donald Marks Family Dentistry
Donald Marks Family Dentistry offers comprehensive dentistry services to ensure your oral and general health. If you need a cleaning and checkup that includes an oral cancer screening, contact our office today for an appointment.