Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to oral cancer. Let’s start with some dreadful statistics. Last year, 42,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with oral cancer; and just over half (57%) have a 5 year survival rate. To put that in prospective, thyroid, cervical, testicular, skin and lymphoma cancers all have higher long term survival rate than oral cancer.
So, how do you know that you have oral cancer? Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing that you have oral cancer by appearance. The only definitive way to find out is through biopsying an area deemed suspicious by a medical professional. Dentist and medical doctors looks for a variety of lesion on your tongue and in your mouth. We are looking for lesions or wounds that do not heal within two weeks. We look for lumps and bumps in your mouth. We look for white, blue or red patches. We even ask patients if they have difficulty swallowing; that is a sign of a growth on the base of your tongue and throat.
What causes oral cancer? Oral cancer is caused by repeated irritation to the soft tissue or the oral mucosa. The number one irritant is tobacco. In fact, 75% of people who have been diagnosed with oral cancer have used tobacco in some form. Another irritant that causes oral cancer is heavy alcohol use.
Historically, the stigma attached to oral cancer patients has always been that they were older heavy drinkers and smokers. Recent studies have turned the stereotype 180 degrees. Research is now showing the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patient are young, non-tobacco users. The cause of this trend is the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is the same virus that causes cervical cancer. HPV oral cancers usually appear on the tonsils or base of the tongue. Fortunately, the survival rates are much higher than oral cancers caused by heavy tobacco and alcohol use.
The key to successful treatment is catching the oral cancer early. Every dental exam should consist of a quick and painless oral cancer exam, and if anything suspicious turns up, a quick biopsy to rule out oral cancer. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
As always, feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have through our website, www.FordDentalGroup.com or call us at 714-842-7431. Dentist Huntington Beach 16511 Goldenwest St. Huntington Beach, CA 92647