April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Jamie J. Alexander on April 14, 2015

April is Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, about 45,750 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Each year, oral cancer kills more people in the U.S. than other more widely known forms of cancer, including skin cancer (malignant melanoma), lymphatic cancer (lymphoma), thyroid, and cervical cancer.

If oral cancer is detected early (in stages one or two), the survival rate is 80% to 90%; but when found as a later stage (stages three or four), the chances of survival drop to 20% to 30%.

Unlike most other cancer detection exams, the screening for oral cancer does not require any special equipment, pain, high cost, invasive tests, or procedures. Dr. Jamie Alexander conducts a cancer exam each time you have a dental checkup.

The human papilloma virus (HPV16) is the main cause of oral-pharyngeal cancers in the US. Because the HPV virus is spreading, the risk of oral cancer is also spreading. All of my patients and the public should take this seriously and have regular oral exams.

4 Things you can do to prevent oral cancer:

  1. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products.
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation, and don’t binge drink.
  3. Eat a well balanced diet.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun because repeat exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower one. When in the sun, use a UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotion or lip balm on your lips, as well as sun lotion on the rest of you exposed skin.

3 Things you can do to catch oral cancer early:

  1. Know the symptoms:
    • Swellings, lumps, rough spots 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 painful 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 two 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 teethor dentures fit together
    • Dramatic weight loss
  2. Conduct a self exam once at least once a month:
    • Using a flashlight and mirror, look at and feel your lips and the front of your gums.
    • Tilt your head back and look and feel the roof of your mouth.
    • Pull your cheeks out and look at the inside of your mouth, inside of your cheeks, and the back of your gums.
    • Look at the back of your throat.
    • Examine all surfaces of your tongue and the floor of you mouth beneath your tongue.
    • Feel for enlarged lymph nodes on both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw.

If you notice any changes, or experience any of the listed signs, above, call our office immediately and I will examine you.

  1. Come to our office for your regular appointments. Although you may be conducting self-exams, sometimes dangerous spots can be so small, you will not see them on your own. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams every three years for persons over age 20 and annually for those over age 40. I examine my adult patients annually.

For April and May we are offering Free Oral Cancers Screening Exams (D0191). Call (561) 732-8877 to schedule your appointment now!