According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, every single hour someone dies in the United States of oral cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is cancer of the gums, lips, tongue, tonsils, or throat. Marion Smile Center has deemed June as Oral Cancer Awareness Month to help you and your loved ones remain vigilant.
More than 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with oral cancer or oropharyngeal cancer. 40% of those people will die within 5 years of their diagnosis. Many people do not discover this type of cancer until late in its development, at which point it has already metastasized (spread) into nearby areas such as lymph nodes and other structures. However, this cancer can be detected by having regular exams with an experienced dentist.
Dental professionals are trained to identify oral cancer signs and symptoms during your regular dental visits. As with most deadly diseases, early detection is paramount to increase your chance of survival.
How Does a Dentist Find Oral Cancer?
Dentists are the only doctors who examine every surface of a patient’s mouth on a regular basis. Many dentists, like Dr. Mark A. Marion, DMD, FAGD, use a special fluorescent light for optical-based technology to examine your mouth and throat. This instrument can aid in identifying oral cancer and other abnormal lesions that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Due to the importance of early detection, it is imperative that you are watchful of your oral health. Conducting monthly oral cancer self-exams between your dental appointments can lead to much earlier detection. The earlier the detection, the easier the treatment, the less disfigurement, less loss of mouth functionality, and the greater the chance for a cure.
How Should I Do Monthly Self-Exams?
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends that everyone perform a monthly self-exam using the following easy technique, using a mirror and bright light:
- Remove dentures or partials.
- Look at and feel the insides of your gums, lips, and cheeks.
- Tilt your head back, say “ahhhh,” and examine the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat.
- Examine the sides of your tongue, under your tongue, and the floor of your mouth.
- Feel under your jawline for swollen lymph nodes.
What to look for:
- A sore/ulceration (red, white, or pink) that does not heal within 2 weeks
- A painless, firm lump on the side of the tongue, within the mouth, or on your neck
- Numbness, pain, or bleeding in the mouth
- Sore throat or hoarseness that does not go away
- Difficulty swallowing
If you discover any of the above signs, do not panic. Contact your dentist right away for an examination. Early detection followed by treatment is the best offense in stopping oral cancer.
Are You or Your Loved Ones at Risk?
Anyone can develop oral cancer. Oral cancer is now being detected in younger and healthier people, which is likely due to better technology that can detect cancer at earlier stages. However, most cases occur in patients over the age of 40.
Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. Prolonged irritation of the gums caused by poorly fitting dentures can lead to the development of oral cancer.
Alcohol and tobacco users remain at the highest risk. If you smoke marijuana or pipes on a regular basis, you are also at a high risk. Prolonged sun exposure increases the likelihood of cancer of the lips, particularly in those who are fair-skinned.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) has also been linked to oral cancers, and this is most often contracted by having oral sex with someone who has HPV. Fortunately, an HPV vaccination is available for all pre-teen boys and girls.
Skilled Dentist in Greater Pittsburgh
If you are looking for a dentist who you can trust to not only keep your mouth and teeth healthy and clean, but also to check for signs of cancerous or precancerous lesions, Dr. Mark A. Marion is here for you in Zelienople. During every checkup, Dr. Marion will evaluate your mouth, neck, and throat area to make sure that everything looks healthy and to check for any changes which may warrant further investigation.
Ask us about our ½ Off ($21 savings) on oral cancer screenings during the month of June! If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marion, contact us today by calling our friendly staff at (724) 452-4300 or by filling out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to being your family dentist for a lifetime of healthy smiles.