When you think of cancer and cancer screenings you probably think about breast, prostate, colorectal or skin cancer. Oral cancer may not even be on your radar, but it should be, says Dr. Marcano here at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry.
In this blog, we’ll explain what oral cancer is, what an oral cancer exam is all about, and lifestyle tweaks that can reduce your risk of getting oral cancer.
What is oral cancer?
In order to better understand what to expect from your first oral cancer exam, let’s take a look at what oral cancer is in the first place. When it comes to cancers in the oral cavity, there are a lot of medical terms used to define it such as oropharyngeal cancers or head and necks cancers, which can get confusing. Generally, the name of the cancer connects to where the cancer begins.
Oral or mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer as it’s sometimes called, is a broad classification for cancers that form on the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and hard and soft palate. Initially oral cancers emerge as lesions or mouth sores that are stubborn to heal. Each year more than 54,540 Americans are diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer. Sadly, an estimated 11,580 will not survive.
Lifestyle changes may lower your risk
Some people are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer because it runs in their family or because they have HPV, the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted disease in the United States. However, about 75% of patients diagnosed with oral cancer engage in behaviors that put them at a higher risk for developing it. These factors include:
Tobacco use and alcohol consumption
Not surprising tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are connected to a vast amount of oral cancer cases. Remarkably a whopping 90% of oral cancers worldwide may be linked to alcohol consumption, tobacco use or a combination thereof.
When you smoke and drink alcohol the risks for developing oral cancer increase exponentially as your consumption increases. In fact, people who drink and smoke excessively are about 30 times more likely to develop oral cancers than those who don’t smoke or consume alcohol.
Excessive sun exposure
Sun exposure also comes into play with oral cancer. This is a key risk factor for people who spend a lot of time working outdoors without wearing hats or other protective gear or using sunscreen.
Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy body weight may play a role when it comes to developing oral cancers. Several studies have found that diets that are high in starchy foods and low in fruits and vegetables may increase your risk for developing oral cancer.
Men at higher risk than women
While oral cancer can strike anyone regardless of gender; men are twice as likely to be diagnosed than women. The risk factors that are believed to explain this discrepancy are that men are more likely to have an HPV infection or be engaged in excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as have a poor diet.
Five-minute exam that can save your life
The good news about oral cancer is that early detection greatly increases treatment options and survival. What’s particularly great about an oral cancer exam is that there’s no prep from your end. An oral cancer exam takes about five-minutes and can take place during your physical or at your dentist’s office.
Here at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry we perform oral cancer screenings as part of our regular dental checkups. We do a comprehensive physical examination of your mouth, looking for the red and white lesions, visible sores or any other anomalies.
We’ll check under your tongue and examine your gums and cheeks. If Dr. Marcano picks up on something that doesn’t seem right, he uses gloved hands to feel for lumps. He may also perform other diagnostics like a special toluidine blue mouth rinse or use an auto-fluorescent light or a device called VELScope® Vx to detect possible abnormal cells.
If you have concerns about oral cancer or have a stubborn mouth sore that doesn’t go away, don’t wait for your next dental appointment. Contact us at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry for an oral cancer exam. Click the online booking tool or call or text the office today.