Routine Oral Cancer Screenings: The Date May Save Your Life
By: Abigail White, RDH
If you are like most people, your desire to maintain a white, youthful smile is most likely your primary motivation for visiting the dentist regularly. However, even the most motivated sometimes find themselves long overdue for a routine exam. If warding off decay and avoiding yellow teeth isn’t reason enough to keep that regular visit on your calendar, perhaps the fact that it might save your life is!
At Cascades Center for Dental Health, we continually look for advantages to ensure that we are providing the optimum level of oral health to our patients. Oral cancer is on the rise, and as your healthcare provider we want to be on top of that for you! Vizilite Plus is an exciting new oral cancer screening that has been incorporated into our standard of care. We find that using ViziLite Plus along with a standard oral cancer examination improves our ability to identify suspicious areas at their earliest stages. Early detection of precancerous tissue can minimize or even eliminate the potentially disfiguring effects of oral cancer, and possibly save your life!
What is Your Risk?
Recent statistics have shown that one person dies every hour from oral cancer in the United States. It is important to note that over 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke, who only drink alcohol occasionally and have no other risk factors!
- Increased Risk Patients: Individuals between the ages of 18 and 30, and sexually active patients . The same type of HPV that infects the genital areas can infect the mouth, throat, head and neck.
- High Risk Patients: Individuals 40 years and older, and tobacco users
- Highest Risk Patients: Individuals 40 years and older with lifestyle risk factors such as tobacco and/or alcohol use, and/or a previous history of oral cancer.
Risks factors for the development of oral cancer include:
- Smoking: Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.
- Smokeless tobacco users: Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol: Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
- Family history of cancer
- Excessive sun exposure: especially at a young age.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
Listed are some of the most common symptoms of oral cancer. If you notice any of the following developments, contact your dentist or healthcare provider immediately!
- Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
- The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
- A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
- Ear Pain
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- Dramatic weight loss
What Is the Outlook for Patients With Oral Cancer?
The overall one-year survival rate for patients with all stages of oral cavity and pharynx cancers is 81%. The five and ten-year survival rates are 56% and 41%, respectively.
The smartest thing you can do for yourself is to take advantage of a yearly advanced oral cancer screening offered during your dental hygiene appointment. One quick, pain free exam could literally save your life! Call us today.