Doc, what exactly are you looking for when you ask me to stick my tongue out and say aah?
Posted by Bruce J Grimaldi, DMD on Apr 8 2018, 10:36 AM
We are looking for oral cancer. Each year close to 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral (mouth) cancer or throat cancer. Worldwide, over half a million will be diagnosed. When detected early, oral cancers have an 80-90% survival rate. Unfortunately, the majority of oral cancers are found at later stages and this accounts for the very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis. Late stage diagnosis occurs not because these cancers are hard to discover, it is probably because of lack of public awareness.
“I haven’t been to the dentist in years. Am I putting myself at risk by not getting checked?”
Yes – all adults should have an oral cancer screening annually. We should think of the oral cancer screening just like other screenings we have- such as cervical, skin, prostate, colon, testicular and breast examinations. Oral cancer screenings, which are easily and routinely performed by your dentist and hygienist as part of your regular dental exam, are an effective means of finding cancer at its early, highly curable stages.
“What are the risk factors?”
- Tobacco (smoking, chewing)
- People who use both tobacco products and alcohol have a significantly greater chance of developing oral cancer than if they only did one or the other
- Exposure to HPV 16 virus (human papilloma virus version 16) – this is now the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers in the US (the same one which is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women)
- Eating too few fruits and vegetables may increase your risk for developing any type of cancer
“What are the signs and symptoms of oral/throat cancer?”
- Red and/or white discolorations in the mouth
- Any sore or irritation in the mouth that does not heal within 2 weeks
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area in your mouth
- A sensation that something is stuck within your throat
- Trouble with swallowing or a cough or sore throat that doesn’t go away
- Hoarseness or changes in your voice which lasts for a prolonged period of time
What can I do to lower my risk for oral and throat cancer?
- Avoid all tobacco products
- Avoid heavy alcohol use
- If sexually active, practice safe sex to prevent the spread of HPV
- As part of your oral hygiene routine, watch for changes in the soft tissues of your mouth
- Visit your dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings
Always remember, your oral health is the gateway to your overall health.
If you have any questions/concerns please call our office to make an appointment with Dr. Grimaldi at 908-277-0171.