As most of the country finally enters spring, April is a time to celebrate new beginnings, enjoy warmer weather, and prepare for summer adventures ahead. However, April is also an important month for your health—it’s Oral Cancer Awareness Month. As serious as this disease is, would you believe that one little oral cancer screening can mean the difference between life and death? If it’s been a while since your last dental appointment, take the opportunity this month to go in for this short but crucial service that your dentist can do for you.
What should you know about oral cancer?
Likely because it isn’t as common as other forms of cancer—only 53,000 people in the United States are expected to be newly diagnosed with it this year—oral cancer doesn’t typically get a lot of attention, but it can be just as impactful. In fact, oral cancer patients generally have a 57 percent chance of survival. In addition, oral cancer isn’t widely discussed likely because of the myth that it only affects smokers and heavy drinkers. Although smoking and drinking alcohol are among the highest risks for getting oral cancer, exposure to the human papilloma virus and prolonged sunlight have also been found to increase chances of this disease in otherwise healthy patients.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
This disease can show up in many ways, including the following:
- Red, white, or speckled tissue in the mouth.
- Lumps or bumps in the mouth, neck, or jaw.
- Numbness in the tongue.
- Patches of thickened tissue in the mouth.
- Lips or mouth sores that take longer than 2 weeks to heal.
Although some of these symptoms seem straightforward, they can be challenging to spot on yourself, especially if you aren’t a trained professional. For a thorough, accurate screening, you need to visit someone who is an expert in oral health.
What is an oral cancer screening?
As an important part of your routine dental checkup and cleaning appointment every six months, an oral cancer screening only takes a couple of minutes. It consists of a visual and tactile exam with your dentist and is completely painless. They start by inspecting the inside of your mouth, paying particularly close attention to your tongue, soft and hard tissues, and gums. To more easily view the back of your mouth, where the clear symptoms of oral cancer often manifest, they may need to move your tongue out of the way. Then, they gently feel around your jaw, neck, and throat for any unusual masses.
Why should you get an oral cancer screening on a regular basis?
The mortality rate for oral cancer, believe it or not, is high not because it is particularly difficult for medical professionals to diagnose. Rather, oral cancer is most often discovered during the later stages of development, when treatment can do little to resolve it. For those whose oral cancer is found early on, however, their odds of survival rise up to 90 percent. That’s why getting a regular oral cancer screening is so important.
In the end, the short amount of time that it takes to get an oral cancer screening could save your life! It is definitely worth going to the dentist twice a year to have this service performed so that you can either have peace of mind about your health or have a better chance of beating oral cancer and enjoying many more years in your life.
About the Practice
Mod Squad Dental is proud to have two talented dentists to serve patients in the San Diego community. Dr. Friedman and Dr. Cohen each have years of dental experience, enabling them to address nearly every dental need under one roof. Whether you are coming for a routine checkup or more complex dental implant placement, Mod Squad Dental can provide the compassionate, expert care you’re looking for. To schedule an appointment, call (858) 682-2394 or click here.