This April marks the 21st Annual Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness of oral and pharyngeal cancers (cancers of the mouth and upper throat), leading to prevention and early detection.
Recent statistics show that over 450,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually, with 50,000 of those occurring in the United States. Nearly 10,000 people will die from oral and pharyngeal cancer this year, and 43% of those diagnosed will pass away within 5 years. Men are twice as likely as women to suffer from oral cancer, which makes sense considering men are more likely to use tobacco products and/or alcohol. It is important to note, however, that the fastest-growing portion of the oral cancer population is non-smokers under the age of 50.
There are a few things you can do to help decrease your risk for oral cancer or catch it early on in the process. First of all, be sure to see your dentist regularly. Dental professionals are trained to look for suspicious areas that could be cancerous or develop into it later. At Shiflett Family Dental, we perform an oral cancer screening at every visit to our office in Columbus, OH, so you can rest assured we are checking for anything out of the ordinary.
Another step you can take is to perform a self-exam once per month. The American Academy of Oral Surgeons has a resource on its website listing the 6 step self-exam as well as many other oral cancer statistics (https://www.aaoms.org/media/raise-oral-cancer-awareness/posters-and-infographics). You can complete your exam by performing the following with a bright light and a mirror:
Remove any dentures
Look and feel inside your lips and the front of your gums
Tilt your head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
Pull your cheek out to inspect it and the gums in the back
Pull out your tongue and look at its top and bottom
Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw
As with any cancer, early detection is key to increasing your chances for a full recovery.
Things you should be on the lookout for include:
Abnormal lumps or thickening of the tissues of your mouth and/or neck
A sore that does not heal or bleeds easily
Red, white, or mixed red and white patches
Difficulty swallowing or chewing
A chronically sore throat or hoarseness
If you detect any of the above issues, be sure to see a dentist as soon as possible. To schedule an oral cancer screening in Columbus, OH, or if you have any questions, give us a call at (614)262-1807.