Oral Cancer Awareness
Although oral cancer is often forgotten about when discussing common forms of cancer, it is a disease that results in the death of one American every hour. Each year, over 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer, and these numbers are rising among young people. Even though oral cancer is a serious and potentially fatal disease, it is one that is treatable when diagnosed early.
What Puts You at Risk?
Oral cancer is now as common as leukemia and responsible for as many deaths as melanoma. Oral cancer is found in men twice as much as it is in women. The most significant risk factor for oral cancer is smoking and tobacco use; however, excessive drinking, especially when combined with smoking, increases your chances of developing oral cancer tenfold. Additional risk factors include exposure to HPV (human papillomavirus), poor oral hygiene, poor diet, and genetics. While some of these factors are out of your control, other practices can be modified to decrease your risk of developing the disease.
What Are the Signs?
Oral cancer can develop on the lips, gums, tongue, throat, roof or floor of the mouth, and the inner lining of the cheeks. While some cancer cases may not display symptoms or side effects, most oral cancer patients experience at least one of the following:
- Swelling in the mouth
- Eroded areas on the gums, lips, roof, or floor of the mouth
- Mouth sores that take a long time or do not heal
- Spontaneous oral bleeding
- Red and white patches in the mouth
- Hard lesions in the mouth or along the gums
- Persistent pain
- Difficulties when swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Increased oral sensitivity
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Oral screenings are the best way to ensure that there are no traces of cancer in your mouth. Many dentists, including Dr. Fiss, perform oral cancer screenings during your annual dental check-up. Dr. Fiss relies on the VELscope® screening system for safe, reliable, and early detection of oral and pharyngeal cancer. The VELscope® system identifies oral abnormalities in multiple areas and tissue depths using a high-energy blue light and specialized filters so that you achieve the earliest detection and treatment possible.
For the ninth consecutive year, Dr. Fiss will be offering free oral cancer screenings (usually $35) using the VELscope at all cleanings during the entire month of April, 2019. Dr. Fiss is committed to doing his part to raise awareness of the importance of early detection of this devastating disease. As with most cancers, early detection dramatically increases the survival rate. Dr. Fiss and his staff are proud to be part of the first line of defense against oral cancer by encouraging yearly oral cancer screenings as well as educating his patients as to the risk factors and early signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
In addition to regular oral cancer screenings, you can help to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer by making certain lifestyle changes. Limiting alcohol consumption, quitting tobacco use, practicing good oral hygiene, and eating cancer-fighting foods like garlic, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and berries can all benefit your overall health and reduce your risk. Oral cancer should be taken very seriously, but when diagnosed early enough is very treatable.
April is oral cancer awareness month. To learn more about the VELscope® screening system or to set up a consultation, contact Dr. Fiss by calling (312) 951-5230 or by filling out our online contact form.