It’s also the month that’s been dedicated to raising awareness about oral cancer. Even though it’s easily detectable with modern Velscope technology, oral cancer still kills someone in the U.S. every hour of every day.
In fact, oral cancer’s death rate is much higher than that of the cancers you tend to hear about more frequently, like cervical cancer or melanoma.
As with many types of cancer, early detection is key for a successful recovery, and sharing the information included in this article with your friends and family just might save a life.
Here’s what you really need to know:
1. It Doesn’t Discriminate
Although the most common demographic for development of oral cancer used to be males over 40, the disease is becoming more common in both women and young adults. While it’s is more common in African Americans, individuals from all races may develop the disease too.
Lifestyle factors such as using smokeless tobacco, smoking, and alcohol use, as well as health-related factors like suffering from Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) may increase your risk of developing oral cancer, regardless of race, gender, or age.
Oral cancer isn’t picky about where it occurs within the body, either. It may be concentrated around the salivary glands, soft cheek and gum tissue, tongue, floor of the mouth, tonsils, back of the mouth, etc. Cases where it develops on the hard palate are not common in the United States, but they are not altogether unheard of either.
2. Risk Factors Can Be Reduced
While risk factors for oral cancer like age, genetic predisposition to develop the disease, gender, and race cannot be helped, other risk factors can be dramatically reduced. This is because many risk factors for oral cancer are qualified as lifestyle choices.
Adjustments in one’s daily routine cannot completely eliminate the possibility of oral cancer in the future, but they can significantly descrease the likelihood of it. Proper use of an SPF lip balm, avoiding tobacco and alcohol products, doing what you can to prevent oral inflammation and HPV, and practicing good oral hygiene habits can all help reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
3. The Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer Can Be Sneaky
Oral cancer is not often detected in its early stages, which is why it can be such a deadly disease. Unfortunately, sneaky signs and symptoms that may be painless or simply unnoticeable are to blame. Fortunately, dentists may be able to see or feel pre-cancerous tissue changes during a regular check-up so that they may be monitored over time.
4. What Can You Look Out For At Home?
The presence of a canker sore or red or white ulceration in the mouth that does not heal within 14 days may indicate the beginnings of oral cancer. Because it is easy to confuse common and benign mouth conditions with the early stages of oral cancer, any discoloration, sore, or irregularity of the mouth that does not resolve itself within two weeks should be looked at by a healthcare professional.
Other symptoms to look out for include a mass or lump inside of the mouth or neck, wart-like masses in the area, long-lasting hoarseness, numbness of the face/mouth, a persistent ear ache on one side only, and pain and/or difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing.
If your healthcare provider recommends a biopsy for any of these conditions-don’t hesitate. The process is inexpensive, quick, and painless. Furthermore, it just may save your life.
Regardless of whether you notice these symptoms, you should visit your dentist at least twice a year and ask them to do an oral cancer screening, which is done quickly and easily with the Velscope system to detect any abnormalities that may be lead to early detection and treatment.