April 7, 2019
April is a great month with warmer weather, beautiful blooming flowers, and exciting plans for summer adventures ahead. But did you know that April is also Oral Cancer Awareness Month? How much do you really know about this disease? Now is an excellent time to learn more about it so that you’re conscious of what to look for and proactive in getting your oral cancer screenings twice every year. Check out these five facts about oral cancer in Richmond.
Oral cancer can be deadly.
Although not as common as breast or prostate cancer, oral cancer can claims one life every hour every day in the United States and has a general survival rate of only 57 percent. That means out of the 53,000 people who are expected to be newly diagnosed in 2019, only 30,210 will likely still be alive in five years.
Oral cancer doesn’t just impact smokers and heavy drinkers.
Believe it or not, tobacco users and those who drink alcohol heavily are not the only ones who are at risk for oral cancer. Exposure to the human papilloma virus and sun exposure (for the lips) are other contributors, and in about 10 percent of cases, there is no known cause at all.
The signs of oral cancer can be hard for the untrained eye to identify.
Trying to do an oral exam on yourself is no easy or efficient task. Plus, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you know if you’ve found it? Your dentist is a specialist in orofacial structures and issues and can easily detect anything suspicious, such as the following symptoms of oral cancer:
- Red or white patches in the mouth or lips.
- Areas of thickened or rough tissue.
- Difficulty or pain in chewing or swallowing.
- Sores that won’t go away.
- Lumps or bumps in the jaw, neck, or mouth.
If you do notice these symptoms last for two or three weeks, contact your Richmond dentist right away.
You get an oral cancer screening at every routine dental appointment.
The good news is that your dentist already has an oral cancer screening built into your routine dental checkup and cleaning appointment every six months, meaning you don’t have to come in another time just for a screening. In fact, you might have had an oral cancer screening without even being aware of it. They simply examine the inside of your mouth and feel your neck and jaw for any of the signs listed above. It’s that simple, quick, and painless!
An oral cancer screening could save your life!
Most of the time, oral cancer is found during the later stages of development, when treatment often comes too late. In cases where oral cancer is diagnosed and treated early on, the survival rate jumps up to 90 percent. That’s why getting an oral cancer screening from a dental professional is so important. By having an oral cancer screening on a regular basis, you increase the likelihood of overcoming it.
In the end, the few minutes it takes to complete an oral cancer screening is worth it. At minimum, you leave your appointment with a little more peace of mind about your health. But if you do have oral cancer, you hopefully have a better chance of getting treatment sooner and many more years of life ahead.
About the Author
Dr. William Way has been practicing dentistry in Richmond, VA for over 30 years. After he graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond in 1987, he joined his father, who opened Westhampton Dentistry in 1946. Dr. Way is proud to carry on the family tradition of excellence and quality dental care. On a monthly basis, he volunteers his services at Crossover Ministry’s Medical and Dental Clinic in Richmond. To schedule an appointment with him, call (804) 288-0948 or click here.
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