Oral cancer doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. But since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, now is the perfect time for you to pause and think about this disease, its effect on individuals across the United States, and how you can protect yourself from it. Let’s talk more about oral cancer disease and how a simple, painless screening could save your life.
Oral Cancer: A Serious Problem
In 2013, roughly 41,000 new cases of oral cancer were diagnosed in the United States. In 2019, it is estimated that over 53,000 people will be diagnosed with a form of oral cancer. Why the increase? It may be due in part to the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Certain stains of it have been connected to oral cancer; it has increased the occurrence of this disease in younger individuals. Other factors, such as environmental conditions and an aging population (oral cancer is most common in people 60 – 70 years old), may also come into play.
Oral cancer is still relatively rare compared to other types of cancer. However, its overall 5-year survival rate is only 65 percent. Other common cancers have much higher survival rates. For example, 90 percent of women with invasive breast cancer are still alive after 5 years. The overall 5-year survival rate for men with local or regional prostate cancer is almost 100 percent.
Fighting Oral Cancer
Clearly, oral cancer is a significant problem. How can you fight it? One way is by attending regular oral cancer screenings with your dentist. This simple and quick examination can be the key to detecting the cancer while it is still in its earliest stages, before it has a chance to spread throughout the body. In many cases, early detection is the key to survival.
Most dentists include an oral cancer exam as part of a routine checkup. They perform a simple visual and tactile examination of the mouth and throat to check for suspicious lumps, discoloration, or other cancer warning signs. Dr. Kelly Blair goes a step further. She has invested in VELscope technology, which uses a special type of light to pinpoint suspicious tissues much earlier than a basic examination ever could. If your screening reveals any cause for concern, Dr. Blair can help you arrange for follow-up testing.
Hopefully, oral cancer will never affect you or someone you love. However, you shouldn’t take it for granted that you’ll never suffer from this devastating disease. If it has been more than a year since your last oral cancer screening, now is the ideal time to schedule one. A simple examination could save your life!
About the Author
Dr. Kelly Blair is an experienced dentist who places a strong emphasis on preventive care. She encourages her patients to visit her regularly for oral cancer screenings. If it is time for your next screening, or you have other concerns about your oral health, contact our office today at 817-737-5155.