April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and even though oral cancer isn’t often discussed as much as other forms of cancer, it is actually responsible for one death every hour here in the United States. These numbers haven’t improved much over the years, and this is typically because oral cancer is not diagnosed until it reaches its later stages. Your dentist in St. Peter shares what you need to know about this deadly disease and how you can protect yourself.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is defined as cancer of the head and neck region. This doesn’t include the brain, which holds a category all its own.
Oral cancer can be challenging to diagnose on your own since it can often manifest looking very much like a canker sore, and there typically isn’t much pain at first. Some signs to be aware of are:
- A mass or lump in your neck or mouth region
- Sores or lesions that don’t heal within 14 days
- Changes in the soft tissues of your mouth such as a white or red patch
- Pain or tenderness when swallowing or talking
- Numbness in your face or mouth
What are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
There are some lifestyle habits that you can change to decrease your risk of developing oral cancer. Here are some of the biggest risk factors to be aware of:
- Tobacco Use: Whether it is smoked or chewed, tobacco increases your likelihood of developing oral cancer.
- Poor Nutrition: Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to protect yourself from oral cancer.
- Sunlight: Those who work outside have a higher risk of getting lip cancer. Using chap stick with UV protection can help protect your lips from ultraviolet rays.
- Alcohol: Heavy drinking combined with smoking or tobacco use increases your risk of developing oral cancer 15 times.
- HPV: Human Papillomavirus increases the risk of younger people getting oral cancer.
- Gender: Men are two times more likely to get oral cancer.
- Age: Oral cancer is typically more common in people who are 55 years old or older, unless HPV is the cause.
Protect Yourself from Oral Cancer
Consistent visits to your dentist every six months is your best defense against issues like gum disease and oral cancer. Your dentist can actually detect oral cancer much earlier than you can, which increases your chances of a better prognosis and more successful recovery.
Your next dental appointment could be the one that saves your life, so be sure to call and schedule your appointment today.
About Valley View Dental
For nearly 15 years, Dr. Jennifer Miller has been caring for patients in St. Peter, MN. Patients at Valley View Dental enjoy exceptional service combined with high quality dentistry delivered with state-of-the-art technology including oral cancer screenings.
If you would like to learn more about Valley View Dental, Dr. Miller can be contacted through her website or by calling 507-934-3332.