April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it is a month to recognize and spread awareness about the risks, warning signs, and the devastation that can affect those diagnosed with oral cancer. Here is an overview of oral cancer risks, symptoms, and preventative measures to decrease the odds of you or someone you love contracting this potentially deadly disease.
It’s estimated that almost 50,000 people will suffer from oral and pharynx cancer in 2017 alone. While this accounts for less than 3% of all cancer cases, it means almost 10,000 people will still lose their lives. Almost 350,000 people in the United States alone were living with oral cancer in 2014, and new cases have risen 0.6% on average over the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the survival rate for those diagnosed after five years only 64.5%.
Who is the Most Susceptible?
While men are twice as likely to develop this type of cancer as women, it can develop in anyone. Though smokers and heavy alcohol drinkers are at high risk, young non-smokers are a growing segment of the population contracting oral cancer due to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Eroded, crusty, rough spots; as well as thickening tissues
- Irritation or sores that won’t go away
- When you close your mouth, you notice your teeth fit differently
- Difficulty when it comes to speaking, moving your tongue/jaw, swallowing or chewing
- Numbness, pain or tenderness in the lips or mouth (along with white or red patches)
If symptoms persist beyond 2 or 3 weeks, that is a red flag to immediately make an appointment with your dentist.
Oral Cancer Risks:
- Alcohol: Heavy drinkers make up about 70% of those suffering from oral cancer.
- Smoking: 80% of people with oral cancer had habits such as using snuff, cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
- Genetics: Fanconi anemia is an inherited blood condition that can develop into aplastic anemia or leukemia. Folks with this condition are 500 times as likely to develop oral cancer as people without it.
- Age: About 66% of people with this type of cancer are over the age of 55. The average age is 62.
- Suppression of the immune system: Using immune suppression drugs may lead to oral cancer.
- Ultraviolet Light: Prolonged exposure to sunlight in addition to an unnutritious diet can evolve into this oral health condition.
Fortunately, there are best practices you can adhere to in order to prevent oral cancer. The most obvious is a regular habit of brushing and flossing your teeth daily. Including green tea, cabbage, berries, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, flaxseed, grapes, and beans in your diet can also be a huge combatant. Avoiding cigarettes and heavy alcohol abuse, as well as regular dental visits, help fight against the onset of oral cancer.
At Norwich Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we know the impact that this horrendous disease can have on individuals and their loved ones. That is why we provide an annual screening for all of our patients to minimize oral cancer risks and consistently monitor the status of your oral health. So if you haven’t scheduled your next dental examination, now is the time!