According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Additionally, oral cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of any cancer. This isn’t because oral cancer is particularly hard to detect, but rather that it’s often found too late. That’s why this April, all of us at our Saint Louis dental office want to educate our patients on the importance of early diagnosis and how you can help keep yourself safe from oral cancer.
Research has shown that there are some risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop oral cancer. Tobacco users, including cigarette or cigar smokers and tobacco chewers, are the most susceptible to oral cancer — and the risk is even higher for those who both use tobacco and are heavy drinkers. Additionally, the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, has also been linked to oral cancer.
Aside from protecting yourself from the risk factors above, you should also perform self-checks at home every month. Using a bright light and a mirror, simply look and feel the inside of your lips, inspect the roof of your mouth, and examine your tongue and cheeks for anything that may look or feel abnormal. Some warning signs of oral cancer include white or red patches of oral tissue, a sore that doesn’t heal on its own, a lump or thickening of mouth tissue, and pain or difficulty swallowing. Something that’s so simple to do and only takes a few minutes could, in fact, save your life.
In addition to limiting your exposure to risk factors and performing monthly checks at home, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from oral cancer is to make sure you keep up with regularly scheduled visits to your dentist in Saint Louis. Our team is trained to catch any abnormalities, so if you’re seeing us regularly, and you’re performing self-checks at home, we have a great chance of catching any problems early.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed, or if you’re overdue for a checkup, don’t wait; call our Saint Louis dental office today. We can’t express enough how important early detection is to survival.