On average, one person dies every hour in the United States from this disease. This year, nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with this condition.
It’s oral cancer, and it’s something we take seriously at Highlands Ranch Smiles.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know preventive dentistry is an essential part of what we do. It’s why we encourage you to make regular visits to our dentist office if you live in or near Highlands Ranch, CO.
And when you come for a dental exam, we will check for tooth decay and gum disease. We’ll also be looking out for symptoms of oral cancer.
With all of these oral health issues, early detection makes treatment more effective, and that’s even more important if you may have oral cancer.
Risk Factors For Oral Cancer
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so we wanted to take this opportunity to share some important information about this disease.
If there is good news, it is that more people are surviving after being diagnosed with oral cancer. Earlier detection is a part of that.
Keeping that in mind, we also want you to be aware of the most common causes of oral cancer in the United States.
◼︎ Using Tobacco
Tobacco has been linked to several types of cancer, and it remains the leading cause of oral cancer. Among people 50 and older who are diagnosed with oral cancer, 75 percent have been tobacco users, according to the oral cancer foundation.
It’s important to note that using any kind of tobacco — cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco — will raise your risk of developing this disease. We also want to point out some initial research also suggests that vaping or using e-cigarettes can raise your risk of oral cancer, too.
◼︎ Alcohol Use
Heavy alcohol use is considered the second leading cause of oral cancer in the United States.
For men, this means consuming 21 or more drinks per week. For women, this means consuming 14 or more drinks per week, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
And using alcohol with tobacco can raise your risk of developing oral cancer 15 times. Alcohol dehydrates the soft tissues of your mouth, and when those tissues are dehydrated, it’s easier for them to absorb the many chemicals found in tobacco products.
◼︎ Human papillomavirus
There are many strains of HPV but a few, such as HPV16, have been linked to cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 8 in 10 people will contract HPV during their lives. For 99 percent of those people, HPV has little or no effect. For the remaining 1 percent, however, HPV can lead to oral and other cancers.
On the positive side, vaccines have been developed which can fight HPV. To be effective, these vaccines should be administered before someone is exposed to HPV. This is why the CDC recommends that people receive the vaccine around the age of 11 or 12.
To find out if you or someone in your family may be eligible to receive the vaccine, talk to your family physician.
◼︎ Ultraviolet light
People with lots of sun exposure are at a higher risk for lip cancer in particular.
Signs & Symptoms Of Oral Cancer
When you visit Highlands Ranch Smiles, our dental professionals will be looking for anything unusual in your mouth. If we notice something, we will let you know so you can get tested as soon as possible.
We also know that a lot can change in the six months between regular visits. This is why we encourage you to learn the symptoms of oral cancer as well. These include:
▸ Red or white patches on the soft tissue of your mouth
▸ Small ulcers or sores that do not heal within 14 days
▸ Lumps that form inside your mouth or neck
▸ Pain when eating or swallowing
▸ A persistent feeling of hoarseness
▸ Numbness in your mouth or face
▸ A persistent earache on one side of your head
These symptoms may not necessarily mean that you have oral cancer, but we would recommend making an appointment with your doctor if you notice one or more of these signs.
Preventive dentistry and preventive care are vital to keeping you and your mouth as healthy as possible. The Highlands Ranch Smiles team wants to do everything we can to keep you feeling your best.