The month of April is known as Oral Cancer Awareness month. The American Dental Association puts an emphasis on this cause over an entire month to bring awareness to the cause and let people know how serious it is and why it should be on everyone’s mind during April.
Oral cancer affects about 53,000 American people every year. Almost 10,000 people diagnosed with oral cancer pass away from the disease. The death rate for oral cancers is slightly higher than other common cancers because it is typically found later on and has progressed to a point that is harder to treat and overcome. Currently, there is no proactive program in the United States that opportunistically screens for the disease, and without a detection strategy set in place, late-stage findings are more common among patients. This is a great cause to focus on for an entire month, it can educate patients and save lives!
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing cancer. Risk factors can influence cancer, but they do not cause oral cancer. Some patients are known to have high-risk factors, but never develop cancer, whereas other patients develop cancer never having risk factors. If you know you are at risk for developing oral cancer, consult your dentist and come up with a plan to meet regularly to have an oral cancer screening as well making the transition to healthier lifestyle choices to decrease your risk.
- Tobacco use. Whether you use cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars, or e-cigarettes, you are exposing your mouth to chemicals and bacteria that can influence oral cancer. 85% of head and neck cancer is linked to tobacco use. Secondhand smoke can also put you at a higher risk of getting oral cancer as well.
- Frequent and heavy drinking of alcohol gives you a higher chance of head and neck cancer.
Other contributing factors include:
- Fair skin
- Weekend immune system
- Poor hygiene/nutrition
Ways to Prevent
There are multiple risk factors that can cause different types of cancer. They are still studying which factors cause this specific type of cancer and how it can be prevented. There is no way to completely prevent this disease, like most cancers, you can lower your chances of risk by adjusting your lifestyle. If you’re more susceptible to this type of cancer, you may want to consult your physician and dentist about how to cut back risk factors and keep up with proper oral hygiene.
Stopping the use of all tobacco and smoking products is the best thing you can do to reduce risk. Smoking is the number one factor that contributes to cancer. Make sure you’re also vaccinated for HPV, which is approved by the FDA. This disease compromises your immune system and leaves your body at risk.
For more information about oral cancer, how to prevent it, and what the dental community is doing to support relief efforts, please visit The Oral Cancer Foundation.
Consult with your dentist about preventative care and a treatment plan when it comes to oral hygiene. You can learn more by giving us a call at (727) 343-8831.