April 1, 2016 – April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer is a silent killer: half of those diagnosed with oral cancer this year will be not alive in five years.
Late-stage detection is mostly at blame for the grim prognosis, as many people skip routine dental exams.
“The unfortunate reality of oral cancer the death rate is particularly high, not because it is hard to diagnose, but because often the cancer is discovered late in its development,” says Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS., Regional Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics.
Oral cancer is responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths annually, that is as many deaths as caused by hand gun violence annually.
“Screenings for early detection are very important,” says Dr. Townsend. “Too often patients may not be alerted to the signs of oral cancer until it is too late.”
While oral cancer can affect anyone, certain factors that can strongly predicate an increased risk of developing this type of cancer include tobacco use both smoking and smokeless, frequent alcohol consumption, the human papillomavirus (HPV), poor diet, genetics, age and gender.
Dr. Townsend warns about the symptoms of oral cancer which can include lesions, lumps or sores in the mouth that don’t heal, unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth, pain or difficulty swallowing, persistent pain in the mouth, and difficulty with movement of the mouth or jaw.
“If you notice even a slight difference in your oral health, don’t delay on visiting your dentist for an oral screening,” says Dr. Townsend. “It could save your life.”