Each year, approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer. Because oral cancer is usually identified in the later stages, the survival rate often hovers near 20 percent. But with early detection, the survival rate increases to approximately 75 percent. Last year, actor Michael Douglas publicly detailed his fight against oral cancer.
To increase general knowledge in this country, the Oral Cancer Foundation has designated April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. One important component of finding and treating oral cancer is regular screenings by your dentist. During your routine visit, your dentist will examine your mouth and look for anything suspicious. Some dental providers use special screening devices such as a VELscope or ViziLite.
Often, oral cancer starts out with mild symptoms so it may go undiagnosed. Common signs of oral cancer include a sore or lesion that won’t heal, continued hoarseness, prolonged sore throat, and difficulty swallowing. If you have any concerns, make sure to let your dentist know right away.
Certain factors can increase your risk of oral cancer, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV). In general, more men than women develop oral cancer. Oral cancer tends to strike people over age 40, but the disease has started to appear more frequently in younger patients.
To lessen your risks of oral cancer, follow these tips:
• Contact your doctor immediately if you experience unusual symptoms
• Eat a healthy diet
• Limit alcohol intake
• Protect your face and lips from sun exposure
• Stop tobacco use
• Visit your dentist for routine checkups