An estimated 10,000 people will die of oral cancer this year, and tens of thousands more will be diagnosed with this devastating disease. Even many people who thought they would never have to face cancer will find themselves in a fight for their lives. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it is the perfect time for you to pause and reflect on whether you are doing all you can to fight oral cancer. Let’s discuss how you can recognize its signs and symptoms and why visiting your dentist in Atlanta for a professional screening is so important.
Recognizing Oral Cancer
Some people associate oral cancer solely with tobacco use; they may not realize that there are a host of other risk factors that can contribute to this disease. For example, prolonged sun exposure, a poor diet, older age, heavy alcohol consumption, and even the human papilloma virus (HPV) are all significant risk factors. Even individuals who do not have any risk factors may still develop oral cancer. That is why it is so important that everyone should be aware of changes in their body that might point to oral cancer. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Lumps or thickening in the cheeks, tongue, or other areas in or around the mouth
- Patches of red or white discoloration in or around the mouth
- Loose teeth that have no apparent dental cause
- A persistent sore throat or the sensation that something is stuck in the throat
- Unexplained voice changes or weight loss
The Value of Professional Screenings
In some cases, the signs of oral cancer are subtle, especially when the disease is still in its early stages. You might not be aware that anything is wrong until the cancer has grown significantly. Therefore, it’s wise to have a trained professional screen you for oral cancer at least once a year. Individuals with major risk factors, such as tobacco use, should receive even more frequent screenings.
Oral cancer screenings truly have the potential to save lives. The earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chance of survival. In fact, the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer patients who were diagnosed early on is around 80 percent. In cases where the disease is allowed to spread to distant parts of the body, the survival rate is around 40 percent.
Screenings are fast, simple, and painless. In fact, many dentists include a screening as part of a routine preventive checkup. They’ll perform a visual and tactile examination, looking for area areas of concern. If they notice anything suspicious, they’ll help you arrange for further testing.
Have you been screened for oral cancer lately? If not, now is the time to visit your dentist for this quick and potentially lifesaving exam!
About the Author
Dr. Marilyn Gaylor is a highly accomplished general, cosmetic, and restorative dentist who is passionate about improving her patients’ lives through high-quality oral healthcare. She includes an oral cancer screening as part of each routine preventive checkup. If it is time for your next screening, or you have other concerns about your oral health, contact our office today at 404-351-8790.