April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month
Beware of risk factors — tobacco use, alcohol use and the HPV virus increase your risk for oral cancer.
Schedule an oral cancer screening — your dentist is specially trained to detect signs of oral cancer.
Self-examine regularly — watch for symptoms and report them to your dentist.
Early Detection Improves Odds
Did you know a simple oral screening session with your dentist could double your chances of surviving oral cancer?
Approximately 40 percent of people diagnosed with oral, head and neck cancer die within five years. However, the survival rate jumps to 90 percent when diagnosis of these diseases is made during the early stages.
Why Early Diagnosis is Key
Cancers of the mouth, head and neck are often diagnosed during late stages. Many times, these types of cancer are only discovered because they have metastasized in other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes.
This greatly limits the effectiveness of treatment, and results in lower survival statistics.
Oral Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms of oral cancer are often overlooked or attributed to less serious oral health ailments. Be sure to tell your dentist if you experience these symptoms:
- Persistent mouth sore that does not heal
- Pain in your mouth
- Lump or thickening of cheek
- White or red patch on gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of mouth
- Sore throat or feeling something is stuck in your throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Numbness of tongue or other areas of mouth
- Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
- Loosening of teeth
- Voice changes
- Lump in neck
- Weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
Sources: Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer, Cancercenter.com, The Oral Cancer Foundation