April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer includes cancers of the tongue, lips, cheeks, hard and soft palate, floor of the mouth, sinuses, and throat. Thousands of people in the U.S. will die from this disease this year alone. With regular visits to the dentist, oral cancer can be diagnosed and treated early.
What Are the Possible Causes of Oral Cancer?
Although there is no way to know whether someone will get oral cancer or not, there are some risk factors you should know about. With these in mind, you can take action to reduce some of your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Age Typically, patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40. Although there is nothing you can do to prevent this risk factor, you can make sure you are getting regular check ups at the dentist.
- Tobacco use Whether you smoke it in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, or use dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco, tobacco use is linked to an increased risk of oral cancer.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol People who drink regularly and excessively are more likely to develop oral cancer, but it is still possible for people who don’t drink to get oral cancer, too.
- Viral infections such as HPV16 Certain strains of human papillomavirus increase the risk of oral cancer developing.
- Family history of cancer If family members have oral cancer, you may be more likely to develop it.
- Excessive sun exposure Excessive amounts of time in the sun, especially at a young age, can increase your risk for developing lip cancer.
Oral cancer is much more common in men than in women, although lifestyle choices are the biggest factors.
How Is Oral Cancer Treated, and Is Oral Cancer Curable?
With regular dental visits, oral cancer can be diagnosed in its early stages. Treatment typically involves a team of surgeons, dentists, oncologists, and nutritionists, as well as rehabilitation and restorative specialists. Surgery will remove the cancerous growth. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy are common treatment methods to destroy all of the remaining cancer cells.
Oral Cancer Rates in America
More than eight thousand people in the U.S. die every year from oral cancer. Nearly forty thousand will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and most of them will not live more than five years after being diagnosed. Oral cancers can often go undiagnosed until the disease spreads to other parts of the body. This leads to an extremely high death rate; higher, in fact, than many other cancers, including testicular cancer, cervical cancer, thyroid cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or skin cancer. This is why regular dental exams are so crucial to diagnosing and treating the disease in its early stages.
Oral cancer awareness can help reduce the lifestyle risk factors that contribute to the disease, and regular oral exams allow for early diagnosis and treatment before the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.