Cancer is scary, and oral cancer may be one of the scariest cancers to think about.
Nevertheless, nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with this disease this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Of that group, 57 percent will still be alive for five years or longer, based on the recent data.
If there is good news, it’s that early detection greatly increases the effectiveness of oral cancer treatment. In fact, patients whose oral cancer has not spread have an 83 percent five-year survival rate, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Knowing this, we encourage you to schedule a dental exam at our dentist office in Novi, MI, soon. We use the VELscope to help us identify oral cancer as early as we possibly can.
Identifying Oral Cancer
We are discussing this now because April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a good reminder for everyone to remember that cancer can affect anyone.
As we noted in our introduction, the earlier your cancer is detected, the more effective your treatment will be.
Here’s are some oral cancer symptoms you may notice on your own:
◼︎ Sores that haven’t healed after 14 days
◼︎ Patches of red or white in your mouth’s soft tissues
◼︎ Pain when you eat, speak, or swallow
◼︎ Hoarseness that doesn’t go away
◼︎ Numbness in your mouth or face
◼︎ An earache that persists on side of your face
◼︎ A lump inside your mouth or neck
You should talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you notice these symptoms. They may not mean you have oral cancer, but it’s better to know either way.
Finding Oral Cancer With the VELscope
One of the difficulties of oral cancer is that it can growly painlessly before you notice the symptoms above.
The human eye may not notice any of the signs up oral cancer until it reaches the stages mentioned above. But what if you could find it earlier? That would make your long-term treatment options even better.
And that’s exactly why we have a VELscope at Dr. James’s office.
The VELscope — like a microscope or a telescope — allows us to see more than we can see with our eyes alone. The way the VELscope works is by using a special light and filter to better reveal the fluorescence of different filters in our patients’ mouths.
Precancerous and cancerous tissues may not look much different than surrounding tissue under typical lighting. With the VELscope’s light, we can more easily identify potential areas of concern.
This can allow you to get tested sooner. And if you are diagnosed with oral cancer, you will be able to start your treatment when it is still in it’s earliest stages.
Contributing Factors To Oral Cancer
We want to reiterate that oral cancer can affect anyone. Even so, in a vast majority of cases, medical professionals are able to identify risk factors that contributed to that diagnosis.
Through decades of research, health officials have identified the two biggest risk factors for oral cancer in the United States.
The first one probably won’t surprise you. Tobacco use is easily the leading cause of oral cancer in the United States.
In fact, 75 percent of people 50 and older who are diagnosed with oral cancer are or have been tobacco users of one kind or another.
Whether you chew, dip, or smoke, you are raising your risk of developing oral cancer. More than 70 cancer-causing chemicals have been found in tobacco products, and while the research is still preliminary, there is some evidence that using e-cigarettes raises your risk of oral cancer, too.
The second biggest risk factor for oral cancer is alcohol use.
The risk is noticeably higher for women who consume 14 or more alcoholic drinks per week or mean who consume 21 or more alcoholic drinks weekly.
And this may go without saying, but combining tobacco and alcohol is an invitation for oral cancer to develop.
Alcohol can dry out the soft tissues in your mouth. This makes it easier for the chemicals in tobacco to be absorbed into those tissues.
Get Checked To Protect Your Smile
When you schedule a dental exam at Dr. Ross’s office in Novi, MI, we will be looking for tooth decay and gum disease. And we will also be looking for signs of oral cancer, too.
While we hope nothing is ever wrong, we also want you to know if you should get tested so you can begin treatment if necessary.