April 3, 2018
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so your dentist in Richardson wanted to let patients know he is always staying diligent to catch oral cancer early before it has any chance to do damage. Of course, he can only do this if you make it to his office for regular dental checkups. The sooner he can diagnose your oral cancer, the more effectively he can provide treatment and get your oral health back on track.
Keep reading to learn the importance of regular oral cancer screenings.
The Survival Rate is Low for Late Discovery
The death rate associated with oral and pharyngeal cancer only remains high because of how often it’s discovered late in development. Even when newly diagnosed, only about 60 percent of patients will live longer than five years. This is the last news you want to hear.
Oral cancer can appear in many areas, including the:
- Oral cavity
- Cheek lining
- Floor of your mouth
- Hard palate
It’s also common for signs of oral cancer to mask as another problem, making it easy to ignore for weeks and even months at a time. While a self-exam will keep you aware, it won’t be enough to confirm if oral cancer is present. Only a medical professional with a lab at his disposal can test and officially diagnose oral cancer.
It Can Appear Even Without Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for oral cancer that your dentist in Richardson wants you to know. They include:
- Gender – Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer
- Being over 40 years old
- HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Alcohol and tobacco use (even more so when used together)
- Poor oral health or diet
- Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure (often associated with cheek and lip cancers)
Keep in mind that an estimated 25 percent of oral cancer patients don’t carry any risk factors at all, so it’s still important to visit your dentist for screenings. Preventive care carries much more value than the emergency or restorative care you may need later.
What Can You Do to Fight Back?
The best ways to protect yourself from oral cancer are to visit your dentist every six months and perform self-exams at home once a month.
When you visit the dentist, they’ll look for signs of oral cancer and answer any questions or concerns you may have. If they believe there’s any chance you have oral cancer, they’ll obtain a small sample from the affected area and send it to a lab for testing.
In between visits, you can perform a self-exam in your bathroom mirror. Look for:
- Lumps, bumps, or other abnormalities in your oral cavity and throat
- Red or white patches
- Sores that continuously bleed or fail to heal after several weeks
Be sure to take note of any chronic throat pain, hoarseness, or pain/numbness while biting down as well.
Getting oral cancer screenings from your dentist couldn’t be more important. Schedule a visit with them today to confirm your mouth is cancer-free!
About the Author
Dr. Tom M. McDougal earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Baylor University College of Dentistry. He’s also a member of the American College of Dentists and the Academy of General Dentistry. To learn more about oral cancer or his practice, contact him at (972) 231-5376 or visit his website.
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