Dental experts join Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness about oral cancer

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When oral and oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the mouth and upper throat) are detected and treated early in their development, survival rates can improve significantly. Regular oral cancer examinations performed by your oral health professional remain the best method for detecting oral cancer in its early stages.

As the nation prepares to observe the 16th Annual Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April, the Academy of General Dentistry (agd.org), the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (aaomp.org), the American Academy of Oral Medicine (aaom.com), the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (MyOMS.org), the American Dental Association (ada.org), and the American Dental Hygienists' Association (adha.org) have joined the Oral Cancer Foundation (oralcancerfoundation.org) in its campaign to raise awareness of this silent killer.

Be mindful of symptoms
The mouth is one of your body's most important early warning systems. Between dental visits, it is important that you be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and see a dental professional if they do not improve or disappear after two to three weeks:

  • A sore, or soreness or irritation that doesn't go away
  • Red or white patches, or pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Always call your dental professional right away if you have any immediate concerns.

Historically, the death rate associated with oral and oropharyngeal cancers has been particularly high because these cancers routinely are discovered late in their development. Oral and oropharyngeal cancers collectively kill nearly one person every hour of every day of the year[1]. Of those newly diagnosed with these cancers, 43 percent will not survive longer than five years, and many who do survive suffer long-term problems, such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties eating and speaking.

Factors that may increase your risk of oral cancer
Research has identified a number of factors that may contribute to the development of oral cancer. Historically, those at an especially high risk of developing oral cancer have been heavy alcohol drinkers and smokers older than age 50, but today the cancer also is occurring more frequently in younger, nonsmoking people. The sexually transmitted human papillomavirus 16 (HPV) is related to the increasing incidence of oropharyngeal cancer (most commonly involving tonsillar tissue, including the base of tongue) in the younger population.

If you have never had an oral cancer examination, there is no better time to schedule one than during Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April. When you do, be sure to ask that this examination be made a routine part of all of your future dental checkups.

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