Many patients don’t realize that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which is why your family dentist in Houston is excited to offer a few ways you can celebrate and protect yourself from the harmful and deadly disease that is oral cancer. By knowing how to check yourself at home, getting an oral cancer screening from your dentist, and making a positive change in your habits, you can dramatically reduce your chances of developing oral cancer later in life.
Learn the Facts on Oral Cancer
It’s estimated that about 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, with about 10,000 dying from the disease annually. About 40 percent of those newly-diagnosed with oral cancer will not live longer than five years. Even if a patient does survive oral cancer, it typically results in significant facial disfigurements.
The risk factors for oral cancer include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Having HPV
- Being male (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women)
- Being over the age of 50
- Prolonged exposure to UV rays
Visit Your Dentist for Oral Cancer Screenings
The key to treating and curing oral cancer in the most effective way possible is to catch it in its early stages. The earlier oral cancer is caught, the better chance you have of beating it. The death rate of oral cancer is not high because of the aggressiveness of the disease, but rather due to how often the disease is caught late in development.
Every time you have your regular checkup, your family dentist in Houston is looking for signs of oral cancer. After your initial screening, which only takes a few moments to perform, she offers annual screenings free of charge to keep you protected.
Learn How to Perform a Self-Exam
Even though your dentist performs official screenings, it’s important that you remain diligent in between your regular visits. A great way to celebrate oral cancer awareness is to perform monthly self-exams.
Start by looking for a mirror in a well-lit room, such as your bathroom. Open your mouth and examine all the surfaces of your tongue, cheeks, throat, and palate. You’ll also want to examine your neck and lymph nodes for any abnormalities. When looking for signs of oral cancer, keep an eye out for:
- Red or white patches or discolorations
- Lumps, bumps, thickenings, or rough spots
- Sores that bleed continuously or fail to heal after a two-week long period
- Hoarseness and/or difficulty swallowing
- Numbness or pain while biting down
Make a Positive Change in Your Habits
Patients diagnosed with oral cancer are typically heavy drinkers or use tobacco often. If you engage in these habits, start by reducing your alcohol intake and making an effort to quit tobacco use altogether. If you have difficulty quitting on your own, ask your dentist or other medical professional for assistance.
Celebrating oral cancer awareness month is easy! Your dentist in Houston hopes you schedule an appointment and confirm no oral cancer is present!
About the Author
Dr. Neda Dodig earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Texas at the Houston Dental Branch. If you believe you have early signs of oral cancer, don’t hesitate to contact her at (713) 663-7447 or visit her website.