Cancer isn’t exactly the most fun topic to discuss, but it’s undeniably important. The more you know about this deadly disease, the better you can ward it off, and this is especially true for oral cancer. This condition is typically treatable, if it is caught early enough. Unfortunately, since many patients don’t pay adequate attention to their oral health, the disease is often diagnosed too late. Dr. Cindy Flanagan and the rest of our Houston dental team are committed to reversing this regrettable trend with our comprehensive care. The American Dental Association has named April Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Learning just a few facts about this condition could make a major difference in your wellbeing. In the following blog, Dr. Flanagan and our team go over crucial information you need to know about oral cancer so you can protect your mouth (and your life).
You probably don’t hear oral cancer discussed as some other forms of this disease, but that makes it no less important. In medicine, numbers often speak louder than words, so consider the following:
- “Almost 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or throat cancer” this year alone, according to the ADA. Chances are, you may know someone who suffers from this disease, even if you don’t realize it.
- In the next year, “it will cause over 9,750 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day,” based on data from the Oral Cancer Foundation. This makes taking care of your teeth and gums a gravely important task.
- The survival rate ranges from just 57 to 64 percent, based on information from the ADA and the Oral Cancer Foundation. This means that about one-third of people with oral cancer will succumb to the condition, but why? The Oral Cancer Foundation explains: “historically, the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late it its development.”
These statistics paint a clear picture: oral cancer absolutely exists, it can definitely be deadly, and tragically, it is often discovered far too late. Fortunately, however, these numbers indicate that we can all do our part to fight oral cancer simply by getting educated about this disease so we can take proactive measures and spot it in its early stages.
As the data suggest, oral cancer is easy to miss, especially since its symptoms may seem harmless at first. According to Mayo Clinic, some common “signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include”:
- Persistent or bleeding sores. These might masquerade as canker sores.
- Any sort of “growth, lump, or thickening of the skin or lining of your mouth.” These may also be discolored and develop an irregular texture.
- Consistent “sore throat.” It’s possible that this is more than just a cold.
- Trouble chewing or swallowing.
- “Tongue pain.”
- “Poorly fitting dentures” and “loose teeth.” These kinds of shifts in your mouth should always be considered red flags.
- “Jaw pain or stiffness.”
Mayo Clinic advises you to schedule an appointment with your dentist or physician if you suffer any of the above for a period longer than two weeks. Only a medical professional, like Dr. Flanagan, can determine the true source of these symptoms. They may be more easily treatable or symptoms of minor diseases, but they should be taken seriously.
Combat Oral Cancer
What can you do to fight back against this deadly disease? Dr. Flanagan and our team recommend that you:
- Learn more about oral cancer (you’re already well on your way just by reading this article!) and educate others about this condition.
- See us for a consultation if you notice any potential symptoms.
- Reduce your risk factors. This might involve stopping smoking, cutting down on excessive drinking, minimizing “sun exposure to your lips,” protecting yourself against “a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV),” and generally strengthening your immune system with a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise.
- Attending preventive care appointments at least twice a year at our Houston practice. In addition to teaching you new oral hygiene tips, cleaning your teeth, and checking for any other dental conditions, Dr. Flanagan and our team will screen you for oral cancer. This small step can give you peace of mind—and if you do have oral cancer symptoms, help you seek the treatment you need swiftly and successfully.
Safeguard Your Smile
Do you want to learn more about oral cancer and schedule your next preventive care appointment? Contact our Houston dental practice today!