Thursday, April 24, 2014

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

By R. Scott Warren, MD, DDS
Waco Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. There will be more than 43,000 newly diagnosed cases of oral cancer this year alone. Unfortunately, a person will die every hour of every day from oral cancer. If found early, oral cancer can be very treatable with good chances of long-term revival. The reality is that most cases are not found until the disease is very advanced, and survival rates are much lower. Oral cancer rates are on the rise and no longer just affect high-risk groups like smokers and people who consume alcohol. We are beginning to see a large number of patients who have no high-risk factors at all. These tumors are often associated with human papillomavirus, the same virus that causes cervical cancer in women.

Screening for oral cancer is a great tool that can be easily performed by your dentist or physician. A brief examination that takes just a few seconds to complete can go a long way to finding these tumors at an early stage when they are much easier to treat and survive, as well as opening up treatment options that are easier for people to complete. People can also pay close attention to signs and symptoms that may occur between screenings.
  • Any sores or ulcers that persist for more than two weeks.
  • Any lumps or masses in the oral cavity or neck (especially lumps that are not painful).
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
  • Difficulty moving the tongue or jaws.
  • Red or white patches that don't resolve in two weeks.
  • Changes in your voice.
If you have any of the above, you should discuss these with your dentist or physicians and possibly undergo further evaluation by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or otolaryngologist (ENT) for a possible biopsy.

High-risk individuals include heavy smokers and drinkers over the age of 50.

Early diagnosis is the key to fighting and surviving oral cancer.

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