Cancer can be a tough subject to talk about. Its deadly effects seem to touch everyone at some point in their lives, whether personally or through the struggle of a family member/friend. Lives are ruined daily due to various types of cancer, and at our Fairhope office we want to make a difference.
Every April is oral cancer awareness month, and we want to take the time to help people understand this particularly deadly, yet misunderstood, disease. The five year survival rate for oral cancer patients is only about 50 percent, and much of that is due to the fact that people don’t know what to look for.
Oral Cancer: It’s Largely Preventable
If you’re concerned about your oral cancer risk there’s potentially good news: you can eliminate many of the risk factors simply by cutting out some unhealthy habits. The vast majority of people who develop oral cancer do so because of lifestyle choices.
Risk factors for oral cancer can include any of the following.
- Smoking tobacco in any form will increase the likelihood you develop oral cancer by about six times.
- Heavy alcohol consumption ups your risk by the same amount as smoking. Interestingly enough, around 70 percent of oral cancer patients are drinkers.
- Smokeless tobacco is the biggest risk you can take – you’re around 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer!
- Spending too much time in the sun, especially when you’re young, causes a dramatic risk increase.
- Eating poorly increases your risk too, especially if you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables.
- A family history of cancer increases your risk, especially if you’re at risk in other ways.
- Both men and women who carry the human papillomavirus strain HPV-16 have significantly higher chances of developing oral cancer.
What Oral Cancer Looks Like
Lack of awareness is just one reason that oral cancer is dangerous. It also tends to be largely asymptomatic until it becomes serious. That’s why we offer oral cancer screenings as part of every exam we perform at Fairhope Cosmetic Dentistry.
Our oral cancer test is simple, fast and gives us instant results. We use a method involving a mouth rinse that you swish and spit out. The rinse contains a dye that sticks to potentially cancerous cells, allowing us to see trouble areas before they become visible to the naked eye.
Along with the screenings at our office you should also be keeping an eye on your mouth at home. Check once a month for any of the following symptoms:
- White, red, or speckled spots
- Raised, bumpy, or velvety patches
- Bleeding without an obvious wound
- Sores on the neck, face, lips, or inside the mouth that last longer than two weeks
- Bloody, crusty sores that won’t go away
- Ulcerous spots in the mouth
There are also some symptoms that you can’t see. It’s up to you to know and recognize them – they could mean the difference between early detection and deadly cancer!
- The feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Swelling that changes your bite or the fit of your dentures
- Pain in your ear that doesn’t include hearing loss
- Numbness, tingling, or hypersensitivity in your face, neck, or mouth
- Trouble moving your tongue
- Difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing
Staying Healthy Means Getting Regular Care!
It’s completely possible to detect oral cancer early if you keep up on your six month dental checkup cycle. Tests like the rinse and spit system we use have only been around for a few years, but they’ve made a huge difference. Since the dental industry has moved past visual inspections oral cancer survival rates have risen nearly ten percent!
Don’t let yourself fall prey to a cancer that’s largely preventable and diagnosable with proper care. Cut out bad habits, start living healthier, and make sure you make an appointment to be seen at Fairhope Cosmetic Dentistry!
Let’s Fight Oral Cancer Together
Make this April the month you eliminate risks, identify trouble, and get a clean bill of oral health. We’re ready to help you accomplish that goal – all you have to do is contact our office today! You can reach Fairhope Cosmetic Dentistry by calling 251-210-7142 or you can request an appointment online.
We hope to see you soon!