Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month. One of the more deadly types of cancer involves the mouth. In fact, Oral and pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat) collectively kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, fewer than 60% will live longer than five years. To increase awareness, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) encourages dentists and other dental professionals to raise awareness about facial protection and oral cancer screenings.

Cancer Stats

Oral Cancer Stats

  • The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and many others. 
  • Some 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year.
  • Oral cancer leads to 9,750 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day. 
  • Only slightly more than half of those diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer will be alive in five years. (Approximately 57%) 
  • The death rate associated with these cancers is high because it is so often discovered late into its development.

10 Causes of Oral Cancer

  1. Alcoholism
    Chronic and excessive consumption of alcohol could lead to long-term and severe irritation of the cells within your mouth.
  2. Betel Nuts
    These addictive seeds produce a stimulant similar to the one provided by coffee. They are most commonly found in Southeast Asia and lead to higher-than-average oral cancer in that region. 
  3. Carcinogens
    Researchers suggest that exposure to chemical carcinogens may lead to oral cancer. 
  4. Diet
    Nutrition plays an important role in oral, as well as overall health. People with unhealthy diets are more at risk for developing oral cancer.
  5.  Herpes
    In addition to other adverse health issues, Herpes spreads throughout the body. An STD, it often attacks the mouth and can lead to oral cancer. 
  6. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
    Encompassing a whole family of viruses, HPV impacts moist membranes and skin. The throat, mouth, anus, and cervix contain moist membranes.
  7. Oral Hygiene
    People who routinely take good care of their mouth, including teeth and gums, run a lesser risk of contracting oral cancers than those who do not. 
  8. Smokeless Tobacco 
    This includes items such as chew, which delivers tobacco directly to the mouth rather than through smoke. Constant exposure to nicotine can damage the mouth. 
  9. Smoking
    Something you find on nearly every health related “What Not to Do” list, smoking contributes to oral cancer. Cannabis smoking is also linked to an increased risk of oral cancers. 
  10. UV Radiation
    If you spend a lot of time in the sun, protect your lips by staying in shade, wearing a hat that covers the face, and using lip products that contain sunscreen.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The good news is that cancer diagnoses and associated death rates are declining in the U.S., due to increased awareness, early detection, new treatment protocols, and follow-through on prescribed treatments. Doctors determine the stage of a patient’s cancer relative to the extent cancer has progressed in the body. Staging helps physicians determine treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival rates post-diagnosis. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage one). If it has spread to a different part of the body, the stage is referred to as regional or distant. The earlier cancer is caught; the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. 

How to Limit Your Risk of Oral Cancer

  • Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. 
  • Limit sedentary behavior.
  • Choose mostly plant foods. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. 
  • Don’t rely on supplements to offset unhealthy dietary habits. 
  • If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to one per day for women and two per day for men. 
  • Limit red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meat.
  • Quit smoking. (Or never start.)
  • See your dentist at least twice a year, so he or she can diagnose oral cancer early, to maximize your chances for early diagnosis and effective treatment. 

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999.

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