April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
We are committed in our practice to making sure our patients are educated about risks factors and the prevention of oral cancer. Your regularly scheduled visits to the dentist for oral hygiene are a first line of defense for detected oral cancer in the early, and very treatable, stages. The annual screening all of our patients receive is a regular part of your hygiene exam.
Oral cancer can strike in a number of places including your tongue, lips, cheeks, gums, and the head and neck. The screening is a visual exam your doctor will perform that can detect lumps, swelling, red or white patches in the mouth, or ulcerated tissue that doesn’t heal. Oral cancer is 90% survivable if it is caught in the first stage. The survival rate becomes one of the lowest if oral cancer is diagnosed in later stages.
At Maplewood we have a special detection device that we can use to further enhance our visual exam called a Velscope, the latest technology for detection. It is a non-invasive screening device. It cannot diagnose cancer, but it helps us find abnormalities that are not visible to the naked eye. We use the Velscope in conjunction with our thorough clinical head and neck and intraoral exam and we use it for every new patient screening to determine a baseline evaluation.
Between 80%-90% of mouth cancer is linked to lifestyle and environmental factors which means there are many things you can do to lower your risk. Solar radiation can cause lip cancer be sure to wear a lip balm or sunscreen product for lips with an spf 30. A diet low in fruits and vegetables is a risk factor. Tobacco use and alcohol consumption are also lifestyle choices that can cause oral cancer. The HPV virus is also a risk factor which can be prevented with a vaccination given by your medical provider.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this year alone, 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer and 9,750 deaths will result. Ask us about the cancer screening next time you’re here. We are more than happy to explain the exam to you and talk about your health and overall wellness from a dental perspective! Then be sure to talk to people you love who have other risk factors in their lives that they might change with more knowledge and awareness.