This year, more than 51,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer– and an estimated 10,030 will die as a result. While oral cancer is quite prevalent, there is still a lot of confusion regarding this often preventable disease, who gets it and how, and what to do about it. August is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. In its honor, here are ten surprising facts you may not know about oral cancer.
- More so in males. Males are twice as likely to be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers. Rationale includes that they may drink or smoke more, or they don’t use proper lip protection when heading outdoors.
- Fair skin risks. Perhaps not surprisingly, those with fair skin have a higher risk of getting oral and lip cancer; that could be due to simply due to the fact that lighter skinned people burn more easily, although anyone can be susceptible to sun-related cancers if they fail to take the proper precautions.
- Poor oral hygiene. Certainly, poor oral hygiene can cause cavities and gum disease, but not taking care of your teeth can also lead to oral cancer by inviting bacteria that lead to sores and abscesses.
- Poorly fitting dentures. Do your dentures rub your gums or fit poorly? Ongoing irritation of the gums has been found to lead to oral cancers, especially in those who smoke tobacco or drink alcohol.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Infection of the HPV virus has been linked to oral cancers, most often contracted by having oral sex with someone who has HPV. In recent years, pediatricians and doctors are recommending the HPV vaccination for all preteen boys and girls to prevent HPV-related cancers.
- Marijuana use. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco have been known for years to lead to many sorts of cancers. But marijuana might surprise you. In fact, those who use marijuana on a regular basis are at a much higher risk of developing mouth, head and neck cancers.
- Pipes aren’t any better. You’ve heard people say they love to smoke pipes because they don’t have to inhale as much as with a cigarette, and the tobacco is more pure. Unfortunately, pipe smoking, in particular, has been linked to lip cancer from where the mouth usually touches the stem of the pipe.
- Age matters. The risk of getting oral cancer increases as you age; this could simply be because the disease may take time to develop, or that lifestyle catches up. But just because those over 45 are at a higher risk for oral cancers doesn’t mean younger people are immune. Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms and adjust risky behaviors accordingly.
- Know the symptoms. Knowing what to look for can help you seek treatment sooner than later. Look for these indicators that you might have the early stages of oral cancer:
- Ear pain
- Hoarseness or a raspy voice
- Swelling in the jaw
- A sore throat that doesn’t seem to heal
- White patches on your tongue, lips, gums, or inside the cheek
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Numbness, pain or bleeding in the mouth
- Your dentist screens you every six months. Probably the biggest surprise is that if you see your dentist for semi-annual check-ups, he probably is performing an oral cancer screen, even if you don’t ask for one. That’s because good dentists care about your total oral hygiene, not just keeping your teeth white. Your dentist will examine your gums, look down your throat at your tonsils and uvula, and search your tongue for any signs of irregularity or disease.
Through the month of August, we are offering $10 OFF Oral Cancer Screenings. This screening takes just a couple minutes and is performed in our office using a fluorescent light technology that provides visualization of oral cancer, pre-cancer, and other abnormal lesions which can’t always be visible to the naked eye. #shinelightsavelives
Dr. Mark A. Marion and his experienced staff at Marion Smile Center provides total oral care for you and your family, and want you to be vigilant to the signs of oral cancers, many of which are preventable and treatable if detected early. Marion Smile Center proudly serves the North Hills area of Pittsburgh, Zelienople, Harmony, Cranberry Township and surrounding areas in Butler and Beaver counties. For the finest in dental care from practitioners who will treat you like family, call Marion Smile Center today at (724) 452-4300 to schedule your appointment. You can also request an appointment online.