April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, now in its 15th year.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with oral or pharyngeal cancer. Of those, about 7,300 are expected to die this year and by five years from now, about half are expected to have died.
Other significant facts:
The average age of someone diagnosed with oral cancer is 62 years old.
Oral cancer is twice as common in men as women.
The death rate for cancer is higher than many other cancers, including cervical and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
About $3.2 billion is spent annually in the United States on the treatment of oral cancer.
The reason for the high death rate, officials say, is that most cases aren’t diagnosed until the cancer is in its later stages and the disease has already spread. Treatment is less successful at that stage than if the cancer had been detected early on.
Risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol use, particularly long term use of these substances. Poor nutrition also increases your risk, as does prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. One of the more newly discovered risks, according to the ACS, is the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease.
Initial signs of oral cancer can include soreness in the mouth that doesn’t go away, red or white patches in the mouth, or unexplained lumps or soreness in the back of the mouth or jaw.
The American Cancer Society and other organizations are using Oral Cancer Awareness Month to encourage everyone, regardless of age or risk factors, to get screened. Many dentists offer free screenings or routine screenings with regular dental check-ups.
Posted on behalf of Linda King DDS
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