he topic of cancer is often met with fear and trepidation, and rightly so, as it continues to claim thousands of lives each year. One form of cancer that deserves our attention is oral cancer, a fairly common type in the United States, with over 45,000 cases diagnosed annually. Sadly, approximately 9,700 individuals succumb to this disease each year. As proud members of the Decatur, GA community, at Metro Decatur Dental Group PC, we recognize the significance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, as it presents an opportunity to educate our patients and neighbors about the risk factors, early signs, and the importance of timely detection.
The Crucial Role of Early Detection
One of the most compelling reasons to maintain regular dental check-ups is the potential for early detection of oral cancer, which significantly improves treatment outcomes. Between your dental visits, being aware of the early warning signs of oral cancer can be life-saving and prompt you to seek professional care promptly.
Recognizing the Early Signs
Oral cancer can manifest in various areas, from the lips, tongue, and cheeks to the throat. Identifying the symptoms, however, can sometimes be challenging, as they might resemble other oral issues. If you experience any of the following signs, it’s crucial to contact your dentist immediately to schedule an oral cancer screening:
- Chronic bad breath
- Persistent sores that do not heal
- A lump on the cheek
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in your voice
Understanding the Risk Factors
While certain lifestyle and hereditary factors can elevate the risk of developing oral cancer, it’s essential to remember that anyone can be affected, even if they do not fit these profiles. Being informed about the risk factors empowers us to make proactive choices. Consider the following risk factors:
- Gender: Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer compared to women.
- Age: The majority of oral cancer patients are over the age of 55, with the average diagnosis occurring around 62 years old.
- Tobacco: Approximately 80% of oral cancer diagnoses are linked to tobacco use.
- Alcohol: Roughly 70% of oral cancer cases are associated with heavy alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco & Alcohol Combination: Using both tobacco and alcohol substantially increases the risk, up to 15 times higher than those who do not.