Nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United State each year. That is more than 130 people every day, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. This means one person will die from oral cancer every hour.
Because oral cancer awareness is low in the American public, the month of April has been designated as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. During April, the Oral Cancer Foundation, which is a national public service nonprofit entity, leads its national screening campaign to help end oral cancer.
Oral cancer is the largest group of head and neck cancers and includes cancer of the mouth, tongue, tonsil and throat. It not only includes cancers that occur in the mouth itself, but also in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx as well as the exterior of the mouth including the lips.
Those who smoke or chew tobacco should definitely be screened since tobacco is a major risk factor for oral cancer. However, something many people in the general public do not know is that the fastest growing segment of oral cancer is among patients who are young, healthy and non-smoking. This is due to the connection between oral cancers to the Human Papilloma Virus, known more commonly as HPV. This is the same virus that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women.
Because of the relationship of the HPV virus and oral cancer, the doctors at Horton and Vranas, DDS, highly encourage both their male and female patients from the ages of 11-26 and/or parents of these patients to discuss the HPV vaccine with their medical doctors as this vaccine may help prevent oral cancer.
When found early, oral cancers have an 80 to 90% survival rate, says the Oral Cancer Foundation. Unfortunately the majority of oral cancers are often found only in the later stages and this has resulted in the statistic that nearly half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer will die within 5 years.
Regular oral cancer screenings are essential to diagnose oral cancer early so it can be successful treated. Dental exams should always include an oral cancer screening. Dr. Horton and Dr. Vranas, along with the dental hygienists at Horton and Vranas, DDS, always provide an oral cancer screening during each complete dental exam. If your dentist does not mention they are doing an oral cancer screening during your dental exam, please ask them to confirm they are screening you for oral cancer. If you have not had a dental exam recently, please contact us so we can schedule this important screening.