Did you know that some 42,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the United States alone? And according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly half of those newly diagnosed will not make it the next five years.
The main reason for the poor prognosis is this: most patients are not diagnosed until it is too late and the cancer has already metastasized to other parts of the body.
Those at risk for oral cancer – also known as mouth, tongue, tonsil or throat cancer – include heavy smokers, heavy drinkers and the elderly. More recently, scientists have discovered a link between oral cancer and HPV 16, or human papilloma virus number 16. Usually transmitted sexually, HPV has also been linked to cervical cancer.
Concerned about their patients, most dentists conduct oral cancer screenings during routine checkups. This consists of checking all areas of the mouth, front to back, for any signs of cancer. These can include:
Of course if any of these symptoms start to occur in between visits, you should contact your dentist or doctor immediately. Also, it is important to remember that having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have oral cancer, as other diseases and infections may have similar symptoms. In any case, a trip to the dentist’s office is warranted if you notice anything unusual in your mouth.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Mitul Patel
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