It’s been estimated that the rate of fatalities from oral cancer amount to 24 people every day in the United States. Oral cancer doesn’t get the attention that other forms of cancer do, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the easy step to detecting its presence. Early detection has been shown to raise the survival rate to 80% or better. What is the easy step? Regular dental check-ups! During your hygiene visit, the doctor and hygienist look for small changes in the tissues lining your mouth, lips, and tongue that might indicate the early stages of oral cancer. If any abnormalities are uncovered either visually or by touch, a small bit of the tissue can be taken and sent to a lab for testing.
Are you at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer mostly affects those over 40, but today, younger people represent the fastest growing segment among oral cancer patients. The spread of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16) is the primary reason for this trend, but there are also many other risk factors that apply: age, genetics, moderate to heavy drinking, long-time tobacco use, just to name a few. Consistent over exposure to the sun is also associated with cancers of the lip.
While most are completely benign, abnormal sores or color changes in the tissue of your mouth, lips, and tongue may be a symptom or oral cancer, especially if they haven’t gone away by themselves after 2-3 weeks. Accurate diagnosis can only be done through a laboratory report. One of your best defenses against oral cancer starts with early detection - another great reason to have regular dental checkups!