In addition to being the month where the weather turns warmer and the flowers begin to bloom, did you know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month? Oral cancer is cancer that develops in any part of the mouth including the lips, gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth. Oral cancer is not uncommon, especially in adults over the age of 40. Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than women. Fortunately, if diagnosed early, this form of cancer is very treatable.
There are several different symptoms you could suffer from if you have oral cancer, though keep in mind that these things could also be symptoms of a number of other ailments. A mouth sore that won’t heal on its own after a couple of weeks, unexplained bleeding in the mouth, white or red patches on your gums, loose teeth or teeth that are falling out, the feeling of having a lump in your throat, or any other unexplained constant pain inside your mouth or throat could all be signs of oral cancer.
If diagnosed with oral cancer, there are several different forms of treatment that a doctor will recommend depending on the stage and location of the cancer, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Your doctor will also likely recommend a healthy lifestyle that avoids tobacco and alcohol and is filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water. It is important to note that the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.
The great news is if you are visiting your dentist twice a year for a checkup, you are already taking steps to detect any issues early on. During a routine checkup, your dentist will do a visual examination of your mouth, lips, and tongue for any signs of oral cancer. He or she may also check your neck and jaw for any abnormal lumps. If your dentist detects anything unusual, you will be referred to a specialist who will likely perform a biopsy to determine if you have oral cancer.
An important preventative measure you can take is to get the HPV vaccine. HPV stands for Human papillomavirus and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Certain strains of HPV have been associated with oral/throat cancer and getting this safe vaccine can help to prevent this.
Like all other types of cancer awareness initiatives, the point of Oral Cancer Awareness Month is not to provoke fear or paranoia. The purpose is to bring knowledge and understanding so that everyone feels equipped to prevent and treat this kind of cancer. If you are not seeing a dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and checkup or if you’re looking for a dentist who can help ease your fears and help identify any issues, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry. Our team of friendly professionals are committed to listening to our patients’ worries and concerns and adequately answering all of their questions. Schedule an appointment with us today!