It’s Oral Cancer Awareness Month 

In 2024, more than 58,000 people will receive oral cancer diagnoses. As we observe Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April, our team is committed to empowering patients with crucial knowledge to protect their health. Read on to learn about oral cancer, the importance of early detection, common signs and symptoms, and how to protect your oral health.  

What is Oral Cancer? 

Oral cancer refers to abnormal cell growth in the mouth or throat. This disease can affect various areas of the oral cavity, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and throat.  

While tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption are well-known risk factors for oral cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has also been linked to the development of this disease. Regardless of the cancer’s origin, early detection significantly improves the likelihood of remission. 

The Power of Early Detection  

Early detection of oral cancer is vital for successful treatment outcomes, which reach up to 86% when first addressed in the early stages. Dentists are often the first healthcare providers to detect signs of oral cancer during routine exams. During each annual dental check-up, your dentist diligently checks for signs or symptoms of oral cancer. In the event that abnormal tissue is found, a quick biopsy can determine if it is cancerous.  

Signs and Symptoms 

 Even though your dental team screens for oral cancer during routine visits, it is still essential for patients to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, schedule an appointment with your dental or healthcare provider as soon as possible: 

  • Mouth sores or ulcers that do not heal 
  • Red or white patches on cheeks or gums 
  • Lumps or thickening of the oral tissue 
  • Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, or speaking 
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness 
  • Numbness or pain in the mouth or lips 

How to Protect Your Health  

Oral cancer poses a higher risk to men, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 59 , compared to 1 in 139 for women. While certain risk factors for oral cancer, such as genetics, gender, and age, are beyond control, there are preventive actions you can take to lower your personal risk: 

  • Avoid any form of tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco 
  • Limit alcohol consumption 
  • Practice good oral hygiene, including brushing your teeth twice a day, daily flossing, and regular dental check-ups and cleanings 
  • Discuss the HPV vaccination with your healthcare provider 

 This April, we encourage each patient to take the initiative to learn more about their oral cancer risk and how to protect their health. If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to schedule an exam. Remember, early detection is key to successful treatment outcomes.