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Are You At Risk for Oral Cancer?

By Chrissy Boothroyd and Chie li Ee, DMD

Every hour of every day, 1 person dies of oral cancer. Oral cancer is the 6th most common type of cancer, with over 640,000 new cases diagnosed each year (54,000 of those are in the United States). Men are more than twice as likely as women to get oral cancer. In the United States roughly 38,000 are men and 15,210 are women. Almost 13,500 people in the US die from oral cancer each year. If diagnosed early, the 5-year survival rate is 85%. Most cases are not caught early, as there are no symptoms until the late stages of the disease, when the 5-year survival rate drops to less than 45%.  
There are several risk factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Tobacco use is by far the greatest risk factor. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping, and smokeless tobacco. Excessive alcohol use is the 2nd greatest risk factor, especially when linked to tobacco use. Previous exposure to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the fasted growing segment of oral cancer cases – many of whom are non-smokers under 50 years old. Some other risk factors are poor oral hygiene, poor diet and nutrition, a weakened immune system, and prolonged sun exposure (especially those with fair skin are at risk for lip cancer). 
Although you may have no symptoms at all, you should see your dentist if you have any of the following for more than 2 or 3 weeks:  
· A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal  
· A red, white, or black patch on your lip or in your mouth  
· A lump or thickened tissue  
· Bleeding, pain, or numbness  
· Trouble chewing, swallowing, or moving your tongue or jaw  
· Constant sore throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
· Jaw swelling  
· Hoarseness or change in voice  
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and we would like to stress the importance of regular oral cancer screenings. Prevention and early detection of oral cancer is crucial to saving lives. Dr. Ee and the staff of Cape May Dental Associates are committed to providing the best care possible for all our patients and focus on prevention and early detection of all oral diseases. We always screen for oral cancer at your regular dental cleaning. Call us at (609) 884-5335 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Ee today!

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