Taking a bite out of cancer

    submitted by Dr. Harrison I. Spatz DMD, MS, FACP; Yardley Prosthodontics

    The Oral Cancer Foundation states that approximately 54,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Oral cancers will cause over 9,750 deaths.

    Killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day. Oral cancer encompasses cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the lips.

    The exact etiology of oral cancer is varied but some of the leading causes are heavy alcohol consumption, smoking and tobacco use, human papillomavirus (HPV16), and high sun exposure of the lips.

    Historically, the mortality rate associated with oral cancer is high not because it’s hard to discover or diagnose but because the cancer is routinely discovered late in development.

    When you are seen for check-ups, your dentist will routinely check for cavities and gum problems but they are also your first line of defense against oral cancer.

    Outside your mouth, they will evaluate your face, neck, outer ears, lips, and lymph nodes. Inside your mouth, they will carefully examine your cheeks, gums, tongue, throat, and jaws.

    Your dentist is looking for lumps, sores, or irregular tissue changes. They may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and possibly a biopsy for any suspicious changes.

    The goal of a screening examination is to detect cancer early rather than waiting until symptoms reveal themselves. Most early-stage oral cancers can be easily treated with a higher rate of success.

    It is important to keep in mind that an oral cancer screening is simply a precaution and proactive approach to confirm your oral health. In honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, be sure to schedule a visit with your dentist today for a check-up.

    It is the BEST way to ensure you can live healthy and smile freely!

    PHOTO CAP: Dentist inspecting the sides of the tongue for any suspicious lesions.

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