Oral cancer is one type of cancer that we don't typically hear much about. However, did you know that it is responsible for one death in America every hour of every day?
Unfortunately, the statistics on oral cancer have not improved much over the years because this type of cancer is typically not diagnosed until its later stages when the prognosis is much worse. It also has a high rate of reoccurrence, which means if you have it once, you have an increased risk of getting it again.
Our team is spending more time educating patients about oral cancer in order to change these numbers. Here are 3 myths and realities about this deadly disease.
Myth #1 – Symptoms Are Easy to Detect on Your Own
The symptoms of oral cancer are not easy to detect, and this is why many patients are late in being diagnosed.
Often, symptoms mimic common dental lesions like canker sores. Your dentist can detect oral cancer much earlier than you can, and this is why routine checkups every six months are so important. Some symptoms to be aware of are:
- Lesions that don't heal within 2 weeks
- Changes in the color of your soft tissues, such as white patches
- Lumps in your mouth or neck
- Pain when swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Numbness in your face
You can be your own best advocate by notifying your dentist of any changes you notice right away.
Myth #2 – Oral Cancer Is Uncommon
Oral cancer will be diagnosed in almost 50,000 Americans this year alone. Surprisingly, this far exceeds the number of new liver (40,000), stomach (28,000), and cervical (13,000) cancers typically diagnosed each year. By making patients more aware of oral cancer, we hope to significantly reduce these numbers.
Myth #3 – Oral Cancer Is for Smokers
While tobacco use does greatly increase your risk of developing oral cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) actually contributes more and more to instances of oral cancer. While most people will clear an HPV infection quickly and easily, it has been proven to account for many cases of cancer in the tongue, oropharynx, and tonsils.
Your Best Defense
Your first line of defense against oral cancer is regular checkups with your dentist. We'll screen for it at every six-month visit, so be sure to call and schedule yours today!