“What About Oral Cancer?”

Cancer is devastating, never a pleasant life experience. We can work on prevention and early detection to fight the cancer. Oral cancer kills roughly one person per hour in America, more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year and only half will be alive in 5 years. If you expand the oral cancer to the larynx and the data to world wide, over 400,000 new cases are found each year according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Of the many known risk factors associated with oral cancer, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are the most common. When you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, the harmful substances introduced to your body have adverse effects on your organs, and are both addictive and linked to numerous types of cancers, not just oral cancer. There are 50 known carcinogens and among 4000 different chemicals in cigarette tobacco smoke, 9 out of every 10 oral cancer patients are smokers. Frequent drinking will dramatically increase the ability of cancer-causing substances present in alcoholic beverages to penetrate the lining of your mouth, such as Acetaldehyde – which forms in a person’s mouth after using alcoholic mouthwash (suspected to be carcinogenic). Human Papilloma Virus, (HPV) is another common contributor to oral cancer. Common symptoms of the beginning stages of oral cancer include rough bumps or patchy legions on the lips or tongue, or any part of the mouth, white sores which are sensitive to temperature and pressure, and difficulty swallowing.

Unfortunately, most oral cancer cells are malignant and can rapidly spread to surrounding tissues (most of these cases were found in a late stage). Early detection is essential to increasing the chances of successfully treating oral cancer. There are several ways to screen for oral cancer, an advanced and non-invasive way  to screen is through use of the VELscope, which produces a fluorescent light onto oral tissues. If the fluorescent luminescence reflects off of the oral tissue, no cancer is present. Cancerous tissue will absorb the light and appear dark on the device. There are other methods for oral cancer screenings also, be sure to request one at your next dental check-up visit, especially if you fall into the high risk group of being male, over 40, who smokes and drinks.

If detected early, oral cancer patients have up to a 90% survival rate. The key to preventing oral cancer is to lead a healthy lifestyle and have regular checkups with both your dental and general health care professional.

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