Have You Scheduled an Oral Cancer Screening? Here’s Why You Should
April is Oral Cancer Screening Month – do you have your appointment made? If not, there is still time to get it on the calendar. Not sure if you’re at risk? Baptist oncologist Dr. Aleksandar Jankov outlined the oral cancer facts that everyone needs to know.
What are some of the most important statistics to know about oral cancer?
- Oral cancer is diagnosed in approximately 50,000 people in the United States.
- It is twice as common in men as it is in women.
- The average age of diagnosis is 62.
- It is estimated that 10,000 deaths each year are caused by oral cancer.
- The survival rate depends on the stage of cancer at diagnosis:
- 5-year survival for patients diagnosed with early, Stage I disease is 83%.
- More advanced cases have poorer survival, with the average rate around 60%
Aside from smoking, what other risk factors contribute to oral cancer?
Smoking is the most commonly recognized risk factor of oral cancer, but there are some additional things that can contribute – including some factors that can be impacted by lifestyle changes.
- It is estimated that 85% of oral cancer is linked to tobacco use in any form, including smoking, chewing, snuff, and especially pipe smoking.
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Prolonged and excessive sun exposure
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Age and gender
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Conditions that weaken the immune system
How can people lower their risk of oral cancer?
Stopping the use of tobacco in any form is the most effective way to dramatically cut the risk of oral cancer. Other healthy lifestyle factors include regular dental checks, avoiding heavy alcohol use, limiting the number of sexual partners, and considering the HPV vaccine for adolescent boys and girls. You should also see a dentist or medical doctor immediately if you notice a red or white spot in your mouth; have a lump, ulcer, mass, or rough spot in your mouth that doesn’t go away; soreness; difficulty chewing or swallowing; or a pain around your lips or mouth.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about oral cancer?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that people who do not smoke or chew tobacco are safe from developing oral cancer. Others are:
- “Oral cancer is rare and uncommon.”
- “My mouth doesn’t hurt, so I am oral cancer free.”
- There is no screening for oral cancer.”
Baptist Memorial Health Care offers regular oral exams and screenings as part of your visit to your dentist or a medical doctor at Baptist Medical Group. You can also reach out to your Baptist doctor for more information about the dangers of tobacco use, lifestyle and health tips, and vaccination information.