In today’s world, unfortunately, the word “cancer” has become more prevalent in our society. No one is immune from cancer and it does not discriminate – cancer doesn’t care what your age, gender or what ethnicity you are. The sad truth of the matter is that we all have someone close to us or know someone who is fighting their battle with cancer: or sadly, has lost their fight to this horrific disease.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. As a dental hygienist and oral health care advocate, I feel that it is very important to educate our clients and loved ones regarding the risks and precautions we can all take to help find, treat, and beat this devastating disease.
There are two distinct pathways by which most people develop oral cancer
An estimated 51,500 people in the United States will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2018. That is 132 new individuals each day. One person dies of oral cancer every hour of every day and the occurrence of oral cancer is on the rise every year.
There are two distinct pathways by which most people develop oral cancer: tobacco products (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, marijuana) and alcohol consumption remain the greatest risk factors. The new game changer is through the exposure to the HPV-16 virus (Human Papilloma Virus), the same virus that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women. There is a small percentage of people (under 7%) do get oral cancer from unknown causes and possibly a genetic disposition.
Today, HPV is the primary cause of oropharyngeal cancer around the world. In the United States, HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers. Both oral HPV and HPV- related oropharyngeal cancers are much more common among men than women from age 18-69.
The good news is that survival rate if caught early, is 80-90 percent. Unfortunately, often by the time it’s caught, it is in the later and more progressed stages. On average, 57 percent of those with the disease will survive more than five years.
Therefore, having this new information along with the increase in oral cancers it is more important than ever to get a thorough oral cancer exam every six months by your dental health professional. Now, with the help of new technologies such as the VELscope VX, which uses natural tissue fluorescence to enhance the visualization of pre-cancers, cancers, and other disease processes. The light enhances visualization of oral mucosal abnormalities that may not be apparent, or visible to the unassisted eye.
Self-Exams for Oral Cancer
Also, self-exams that can be taught to you by your dental hygienist or dentist is very important. You are your first line of defense if any changes such as ulcers, lumps, or bumps in your mouth, tongue, palate or throat – if these show up and don’t go away in 2 weeks, you need to seek professional care immediately.
Here at Facetté, we take each and every one of our client’s overall wellness very seriously. Please call today to schedule your Oral Cancer Screening and exam and let us teach you how to perform self-examinations.
-Erin L. Jones, RDH, CLT