When you think about the different forms of cancer, your mind probably first goes to breast, cervical, brain, or even prostate cancer. But did you know that according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019? It’s important to note that just because a person is diagnosed doesn’t mean it has been found in the early stages. Determining when oral cancer is found is a crucial factor that can significantly increase or decrease your chances of successful treatment, which is why your dentist in Tullahoma strongly encourages oral cancer screenings.
To get a better understanding of oral cancer, let’s take a look at what defines this type of disease. When cancerous cells develop in the oral cavity or throat, it is declared “oral cancer.” It can affect your lips, tongue, throat, the roof of the mouth, tonsils, gums, and even your cheeks.
When determining how oral cancer even starts, there is a common misconception that only individuals who smoke develop it. While smoking is one of the largest risk factors, individuals who have never touched a cigarette have been diagnosed with oral cancer. Additional risk factors include:
If you were to look at the average person who is diagnosed with oral cancer, you’d find males over the age of 50 as the typical patient. However, in recent years, that demographic has shifted somewhat due to an increase in HPV in younger people.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted disease. Since it doesn’t present obvious symptoms in most individuals, it can be easily transmitted without a person ever knowing they have it. Of the 200 strains of HPV, only 9 cause cancer, and one strain is attributed to throat cancer. Some statistics surrounding HPV include:
If you think you may have contracted HPV, it is best to have your dentist perform a visual and tactile exam to look for any signs or symptoms that may be present.
As we mentioned earlier, more than 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019, and of that number, 10,000 will die. Why? Although not in all cases, it is largely determined that the reason most people die from oral cancer is because it was not detected early.
When searching for a “dentist near me,” make sure to look for someone who proudly states that they scan for oral cancer. You want a dentist who not only encourages but explains how they help their patients combat this horrible disease.
During a typical oral cancer screening, your dentist will perform a visual and tactile exam of your mouth, neck, jaw, and throat. Equipped with a well-trained eye, they’ll be looking for:
Don’t be surprised if you’re asked about any additional problems you may be experiencing, including a dry or hoarse voice, weight loss, or any pain developing in and around your mouth.
During your examination, if we notice any areas of concern, we will refer you to a doctor to receive an official diagnosis. You can expect that if you do learn you have oral cancer, our dentists will be a part of your cancer team, ensuring you have available treatment options.
If you haven’t been screened for oral cancer in quite some time, let us help put your mind at ease. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.