April is Oral Cancer
Awareness Month. Approximately 42,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021.The good news is that dentists are trained to detect signs of oral cancer during routine examinations. Early detection provides the best opportunity for a cure. Sadly, only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years.
Oral cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or sore anywhere in the mouth. It can af fect any area of the oral cavity including the lips, gum tissue, check lining, tongue and the hard or soft palate. Anyone can develop oral cancer with the incidence of oral cancer increasing after age 40.
Oral cancer screening is a routine part of each dental examination. Regular check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. You may have a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore and not be aware of it.
During the examination, a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore may be noticed. Although most of these are harmless, some are not. Harmful oral spots or sores often look identical to those that are harmless, but testing can tell them apart.
Dentists often will notice a spot or sore that looks harmless and does not have a clear cause. To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. A brush test collects cells from a suspicious lesion in the mouth. The cells are sent to a laboratory for analysis. If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure. It’s important to know that all atypical and positive results from a brush test must be confirmed by additional testing.
People who use tobacco have a high risk of oral cancer. Combining alcohol with tobacco greatly increases the risk. Early detection is the key so schedule your routine dental visits twice a year!