April 6, 2019
You often hear about the importance of screening for breast, prostate, or colon cancer. While you don’t hear about oral cancer as much, these screenings are just as important. Although oral cancer is on the rise, the survival rate is 85-90% with early detection. And many people don’t realize it, but screenings are done at every checkup with a dentist in Hancock Park. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to read about some of the statistics for this devastating disease, what the risk factors are, and what a screening is like. It’s information that could potentially save your life!
Oral Cancer Statistics
Here are several statistics from the American Cancer Society:
- An estimated 53,000 people in the U.S. are newly diagnosed with oral cancer each year (or 132 people each day).
- 1 person will die from it every hour, every day of the year.
- The average age people are diagnosed with oral cancer is 62. However, it’s increasingly being found in young people without a history of smoking.
- A little over 25% of newly diagnosed cases occur in people younger than 55.
What Are the Risk Factors?
It’s important to note that oral cancer can be found in people who have no risk factors. But it’s more commonly diagnosed when one of these factors are present:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- A weakened immune system
- Heavy drinking
- Frequent sunburns or prolonged sun exposure (this increases the risk for a type of skin cancer called melanoma that’s often found on the border of the lips)
What Is a Screening Like?
Fortunately, oral cancer screenings are very fast and easy. And, since they’re done at each of your bi-annual checkups, they’re also convenient!
First, a dentist and hygienist will both visually inspect your lips, cheeks, throat, palate, and under your tongue. They may also gently palpate your neck and under your jaw to see if there are any lumps, bumps, or tender areas.
Also, it’s a good idea to watch for the following symptoms between visits:
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- A lump or bump that’s developed recently.
- Stiffness or pain in the jaw.
- A chronic sore throat.
- A persistent feeling that something is stuck in your throat.
- Any sores or lesions that haven’t healed within two weeks.
There are several non-threatening conditions that are similar, such as cold sores or benign lumps of fatty tissue, so don’t be alarmed if you notice something, just schedule an evaluation.
In recent years, oral cancer treatment has gotten better than ever. And, with the peace of mind that comes from regular screenings, you can make sure that any potential issues are found as early as possible!
About the Author
Dr. Benjamin Geller is a family dentist in Hancock Park and a graduate of the University of California at San Francisco. As part of his commitment to thorough, comprehensive dentistry, he and his team provide oral cancer screenings at each checkup. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, he can be reached via his website.
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