April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. Every year in the United States, approximately 53,000 people will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Although it is not as common as other types of cancer such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer etc., oral cancer has a severe impact on the quality of life for patients, and a proportionally higher morbidity (death) rate.
Early detection of oral cancer is key in the outcome of patients diagnosed with oral cancer. Each patient at Chestnut Dental receives an oral cancer screening exam when they come for their routine checkup and cleaning appointment. We look for early signs and symptoms of oral cancer including changes in the appearance of soft tissues. When a suspicious lesion is detected, we will recommend follow-up for a biopsy and further treatment if needed.
What are some of the key prevention strategies that you can take as a patient?
– Don’t smoke or use chewing tobacco
– Limit alcohol consumption
– Let your dentist know if you have a family history of oral cancer
– Report changes in the appearance or sensation in the soft tissues in your mouth, if you cannot pinpoint other causes. Pay attention to the high risk sites for oral cancer such as tongue, floor of mouth, palate, and throat.
– Vaccinate against HPV for your children. One particular strain of the Human Papilloma Virus, HPV16, has been found to cause oral cancer in patients who tend to have no other risk factors. The HPV vaccine is typically recommended for children age 11-12. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 33,700 cases of new cancer (not limited to oral cancer) in men and women. HPV vaccine can prevent most of the cancers (about 31,200) from ever developing.
For more information, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website at www.oralcancerfoundation.org.
Dr. Sharon Jin
Prosthodontist, Bedford and Needham offices