According to the American Cancer Society’s recent estimates, approximately 51,540 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer and 10,030 people will die of these cancers each year. That is about 6 people diagnosed every hour, and one life taken every hour. And according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, "Historically the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development."
When diagnosed in its early stages, oral cancer is highly treatable. A simple and painless oral cancer screening could literally save your life! You can expect an oral cancer screening to consist of a thorough visual and physical examination to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth, including abnormal patches of white or red, or certain lesions.
An oral cancer screening is not just a medical exam, but an opportunity for you to speak with your dentist about any fears or concerns, or ask for advice about reducing your risk. At eSmile Dental we always encourage our patients to be open about any oral health concerns so that we can ensure that all your dental experiences with us are comfortable, pleasant, and beneficial to you and your oral health.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
A risk factor is anything that increases an individual’s chance of developing cancer. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your dentist can help you make more informed lifestyle and health choices. The most common risk factors for oral cancer include:
-Tobacco users of any kind, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, etc.
-Heavy alcohol use
-Family history of oral cancer
-History of high sun exposure without using appropriate sunscreen, which increases the risk of lip cancer.
-Those with HPV (Human papillomavirus)
-Poor diet, nutrition, or oral hygiene
In addition, men are approximately twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with oral cancer, though this could be due to lifestyle habits that are perhaps more common in men than women rather than due to gender (such as heavy tobacco and alcohol use). Approximately two-thirds of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer in the US are over the age of 55 as well. Though there is no way to completely prevent the disease, you may be able to significantly lower your risk by adopting healthy lifestyle choices. And remember, as with all diseases, early detection is key to more varied and effective treatment options!