Every year, we dedicate one of our April blogs to help do our part for Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer may not be talked about as much as other forms of the disease, but it’s still a very serious form of cancer that affects thousands of Americans every year. This April, our dental office in Rocky Mount wants to raise awareness by educating our community on the risks and signs of oral cancer, as well as what you can do to reduce your risk of getting it.
Just the Facts
Even though it’s not one of the more discussed cancers, oral cancer is in fact one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States. And the number of those affected continues to grow each and every year. The American Cancer Society estimates that in this year alone, just over 51,500 people will be diagnosed. Additionally, over 10,000 people will lose their lives to the disease. But even though oral cancer is serious and can be fatal, early detection and proactive treatment greatly increases the chance of survival.
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Since detecting oral cancer early is key to treating it successfully, we need to be able to recognize the signs. Some of the common early warning signs of oral cancer may include:
- A chronic sore that doesn’t go away
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- A lump on the cheek or tongue
- Change in voice
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your dentist in Rocky Mount as soon as possible.
Ideally we would all be able to avoid the factors that increase the risk of oral cancer. However, it’s not that simple. Some of the risk factors are uncontrollable, including genetics, age, and gender. However, there are other lifestyle factors that we can control in order to reduce our risk. A short list of both controllable and uncontrollable risks include:
- Gender: Men are two times more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
- Age: People over 55 are the most affected by oral cancer with the average age of diagnosis being 62.
- Tobacco Use: Nearly 80% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers or use smokeless tobacco. Smoking often leads to throat or mouth cancer, and smokeless tobacco usually results in gum, cheek, or lip cancer.
- Alcohol: Approximately 70% of all those diagnosed with oral cancer drink alcohol often. And if you’re a heavy drinker and use tobacco, your risk may be as high as 100%.
How to Prevent Oral Cancer
The best way to protect yourself against oral cancer is to avoid the lifestyle habits that put you at increased risk. Additionally, it’s important to maintain regular dental cleanings and checkups to help catch any problems as early as possible while the chance for successful treatment is greatest. If you haven’t seen a dentist in six months or more, we encourage you to call our Rocky Mount dental office to schedule an appointment today. It could save your life.