April—it’s a month when we get more blooming flowers, warmer weather, and a fresh start with renewed hope. But did you know that April is also Oral Cancer Awareness Month? This condition may not be as common or as widely discussed as breast or prostate cancer, but it is still deadly. In fact, oral cancer claims one life every hour of every day in the United States. Take an opportunity this month to learn more about this disease and why you need to get oral cancer screenings on a regular basis.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer consists of the uncontrollable growth of cancerous cells in the head and neck (excluding the brain). Out of the 53,000 newly diagnosed cases of oral cancer expected for this year, only a little more than half will likely survive past five years.
Oral cancer can manifest in many ways. Its common signs include:
- Red, white, or speckled patches of tissue.
- Mouth or lip sores that don’t heal within two weeks.
- Lumps or bumps in the mouth, jaw, or neck.
- Numbness in the tongue.
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing.
- Pain while swallowing or chewing.
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your dentist or doctor right away for an evaluation and testing.
What happens during an oral cancer screening?
At your routine dental checkup appointment every six months, your dentist performs a quick oral cancer screening to look for the common indications. This begins with their asking you about any changes to your medical history and if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms. They visually examine your mouth, paying particular attention to the gums, tongue, and hard and soft tissues. To be able to view the back of your mouth more clearly, they may need to use gauze to hold and move your tongue. Afterward, they gently feel your jaw and neck. If they happen to discover something of concern, they will send you to a doctor for additional tests.
Why is a regular oral cancer screening so important?
Believe it or not, oral cancer is not particularly difficult to diagnose. Then, you may wonder, why is the mortality rate so high? Well, unfortunately, oral cancer is often found during more advanced stages of development, when treatment comes too late to make a significant difference. Like many other cancers and diseases, oral cancer is more easily treated and overcome when it diagnosed and treated early. In fact, the survival rate for those with early oral cancer detection is up to 90 percent. Your oral cancer screenings twice a year help ensure that, if you do have oral cancer, you are able to have higher chances of beating it.
In the end, a few minutes twice a year may seem insignificant, but your oral cancer screening could save your life! This April, make your semiannual checkup appointment with your dentist so that you can receive this essential service. If they find nothing, you can have extra peace of mind about your health. But if they do, you can seek the treatment you need to enjoy many more years of a fulfilling life.
About the Practice
At Mor Smiles, three experienced and talented dentists provide excellent comprehensive dental care to patients of all ages in the Lititz area. From routine checkups to complex oral surgical procedures to cosmetic services, they and their staff can meet every dental need with a friendly, compassionate attitude. To schedule an appointment with them, you can call (717) 340 – 0478