How much do you know about oral cancer? Probably not as much as you know about breast, prostate, or other more well-known cancers. About 53,000 people are expected to be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019, compared to the estimated 268,600 people who will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer. However, although not as common, oral cancer is very deadly. One person in the United States dies every hour of every day because of it. Out of the 53,000 people who will be diagnosed this year, only a little more than half will likely survive to the five-year mark. This April, which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, take the opportunity to increase your oral cancer awareness in Wakefield.
What are the signs of oral cancer?
Some of the common symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
- Difficulty or pain in swallowing or chewing.
- Sores in your mouth or on your lips that won’t heal after two weeks.
- White or red patches of tissue in your mouth.
- Lumps or bumps in your mouth or on your jaw.
- Areas of especially thick tissue in your mouth.
If you have any of these, contact your dentist or doctor right away.
What is an oral cancer screening?
Unlike some other cancer tests, such as mammograms, oral cancer screenings are quick, painless, and non-invasive. Your dentist in Wakefield performs one at your dental checkup and cleaning appointment every six months as part of their preventive care. They start by reviewing your medical history and asking about any unusual symptoms you may be experiencing. They examine your gums, tongue, and the hard and soft tissues in your mouth. To get a better view of the back of your mouth, where oral cancer often shows up, they may use gauze to hold and move your tongue. Then, they gently feel your jaw. That’s it!
If your dentist does find something suspicious, they will refer you to your doctor for more tests.
Why is getting a regular oral cancer screening important?
The main reason that oral cancer has such a high mortality rate isn’t that it is difficult to spot. Rather, it’s that oral cancer is frequently diagnosed later in development. By that time, treatment often offers too little help too late to improve the situation. Just like with other forms of cancer, early detection is absolutely critical to overcoming oral cancer. In fact, those whose oral cancer is found and treated during the beginning stages of development have a survival rate of up to 90 percent. Having an oral cancer screening performed regularly increases the chances of discovering oral cancer early when treatment is more likely to succeed.
In the end, getting a regular oral cancer screening is just one more reason to attend your dental checkup and cleaning every six months. Even if your dentist doesn’t find oral cancer, you can have added peace of mind about your health. And if they do, you hopefully will be able to enjoy many more years of a fulfilling life after beating oral cancer.
About the Author
Dr. Rob Schumacher has been practicing dentistry for over 14 years. As a board-certified prosthodontist, he has the training and skills to provide especially excellent service in cosmetic and restorative dentistry. At Schumacher Dental, he and his staff perform an oral cancer screening at every routine dental appointment to ensure their patients’ well-being. To make an appointment with him, you can call (781) 334-3400 or click here.