April: Oral Cancer Awareness Month
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Dental professionals have deemed April “Oral Cancer Awareness Month”. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies in the United States of oral or oropharyngeal cancer every hour. The Oral Cancer Foundation also predicts that approximately 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with oral cancer and 40% of those people will die within 5 years of their diagnosis1.
As with most deadly diseases, early detection is the key to increasing survival3. Dentists are trained to examine every surface of a patient’s mouth on a regular basis3. A special fluorescent light can examine the mouth and throat. The light can aid in identifying oral cancer and other abnormal lesions not normally seen with the naked eye3.
Are you or your loved ones at risk?
Anyone can develop oral cancer. Most cases occur in patients over the age of 40 years old4 and men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women3.
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
- Prolonged irritation of the gums caused by poorly fitting dentures4
- Alcohol and tobacco use3
- Smoking marijuana regularly
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Prolonged sun exposure
It is crucial that people are watchful of their oral health. One way to be watchful is to conduct monthly oral cancer self-exams between your dental appointments3. The earlier the detection, the easier the treatment, and the greater the chance for a cure2.
Self-examination using a mirror and bright light2:
- Remove dentures or partials
- Look and feel the insides of your gums, lips, and cheeks
- Tilt your head back, say “aaahh”, and examine the roof of your mouth and back of your throat
- Examine the sides of your tongue, under your tongue, and floor of your mouth
- Feel under your jawline for swollen lymph nodes
What to look for3:
- A sore/ulceration (red, white, or a mixture in color) that does not heal within 2 weeks
- A painless, firm lump on the side of the tongue, within the mouth, or on your neck
- Numbness, pain, or bleeding in the mouth
- Sore throat or hoarseness that does not resolve
- Difficulty swallowing
If you discover any of the above signs, do not panic. Contact your dentist immediately for an examination. Early detection followed by treatment is the best offense.
- April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
- Nelson W. Raise Oral Cancer Awareness. American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
- What you should know about oral cancer
Mark, Anita M.
The Journal of the American Dental Association, April 2016. Volume 147, Issue 4, 312
- Breckner J. Detecting Oral Cancer.
Mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-40-60/oral-cancer-awareness. Accessed March 19, 2020