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IT’S ORAL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH! HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so I want to take some time in this newsletter to talk about what exactly oral cancer (aka mouth and throat cancer) is and how my team and I can help you keep an eye out for it. Oral cancer isn’t as common as some well-documented cancers, like breast cancer (roughly 898 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each day, compared with 132 diagnosed with oral cancer). But it is actually more deadly than many of them. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies from oral cancer every hour, which is a really scary thing to think about. The good news is that if you get regular oral cancer screenings, which we provide to all our patients as part of their dental exams, then you can catch it early, and your outcome is better. According to the National Cancer Institute, early-stage oral cancer can be cured 83% of the time! YOUR ORAL CANCER 411 Oral cancer is the term used for cancer in the lips, tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth, hard palate, soft palate, sinuses, or throat. A good rule of thumb if you find something odd in your mouth, like a lump or swelling, and it hurts, then it’s probably not oral cancer, especially if it goes away within 2–3 weeks. If it’s been there for more than 2 weeks and it doesn’t hurt, it’s a good idea to get it checked immediately. Especially if it has mixed colors, like red and white.
Many people think of oral cancer as a disease that only impacts smokers or people who drink a lot of alcohol, but that’s actually not the case. While smokers do have a higher risk, oral cancer can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is sexually transmitted, often through oral sex, so a lot more people are at risk for oral cancer than you might think. In fact, the fastest growing age range of people being diagnosed with oral cancer are people 18–35 years old because of the HPV link. If you chew tobacco or betel nut, that might raise your risk too, and so can airway-related issues like sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). OUR HIGH-TECH TOOLS CAN HELP My team and I know how dangerous oral cancer can be, so our patients always get a visual oral cancer screening as part of their checkups. But we go a step beyond that, too! If we see something concerning, we have two great high-tech tools that we can break out to take a closer look:
A FINAL THOUGHT Cancer is a tricky, sensitive subject. Pretty much everyone has either battled cancer or has a friend or loved one working through it, and I’m no exception. Right now, I have multiple family members dealing with cancer, and I’ve seen it turn the lives of a lot of my friends and patients upside down. That’s why I think it’s so very important that we raise awareness about screenings, particularly for the cancer types that don’t get a lot of attention! In that spirit, if you haven’t been screened lately or you’re worried about a spot in your mouth, please call my office today to get an exam scheduled. That said, I don’t want you to worry too much about your cancer risk. Take precautions, but don’t let fear take over your life. If you do feel scared, remember that there’s no better place to be than here in the U.S. We have amazing cancer doctors and cancer treatment protocols here, and the treatment advances being developed every day are incredible! We’re all in this together, and our office has your back.
1. ViziLite PRO Oral Lesion Screening System
2. VELscope VS
If they sound fancy, that’s because they are! They’re the best tools on the market to identify oral cancer, and we use them when we need to because we take your health and safety seriously. Also, know that you can request these tests at any time.
To your great smiles and better health,
–Dr. Michelle Wedd le
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