Though we don't hear as much about it, oral cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer; did you know that it is responsible for one death every 24 hours in America? The reason for these dismal statistics is not because oral cancer is difficult to diagnose, but rather because it is often not discovered until its later stages, which makes the prognosis less positive.
A recent study out of the University of Florida, Baylor College of Medicine is finding that oral cancer is quickly becoming an epidemic among middle-aged men due to the HPV (human papillomavirus) virus. HPV contributes to certain kinds of head and neck (oropharyngeal) cancers and cervical cancer in women. While women can be tested yearly for cervical cancer with a pap-smear, there is no effective test for oral cancers, other than routine examinations with your dentist.
The Importance of Routine Dental Visits
A couple of critical things happen at your six-month visits with your dentist. First, your hygienist will clean your teeth to remove the plaque buildup that contributes to concerns such as gum disease or tooth decay. Next, your dentist performs a thorough examination designed to detect many issues such as oral cancer, gum disease, and cavities in their earliest stages.
All of these issues are much more successfully treated when detected early on, including oral cancer. Your best line of defense is truly consistent visits with your dentist.
What to Look For
One of the problems with oral cancer is that it is very hard to detect and sometimes easy to overlook since the symptoms don't cause much pain and can easily be attributed to other oral issues. For example, a canker sore, which typically manifests as a lesion or sore in your mouth can often look very much like an oral cancer lesion. It's important to educate yourself, so you understand what to look for and be aware of.
Here are a few of the symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your dentist:
- A lump or bump inside your neck or mouth
- A sore or lesion that doesn't heal or clear up within 14 days
- Discoloration such as a red area or white patches on your soft tissues
- Discomfort when chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Numbness in your face or mouth
If you've noticed any changes such as these in your oral health, call today to arrange for an examination. Dr. Gentry and her team in Charlotte, NC will help get you back on the path to wellness in no time!