No one likes to talk about cancer. It’s a word that has unfortunately become a norm to society and makes for an awkward conversation. The last thing we want is for anyone to have to deal with something horrendous that could be prevented. Which is why we are writing about oral cancer and why we aim to help prevent it.
Quick Facts About Oral Cancer You Need to Know:
– It’s a Silent Killer
– 50% survive after 5 years of being diagnosed
– More common than you think
– Causes permanent disfiguration
Every year, approximately 49,750 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States alone. That may not sound like a lot of people compared to some other forms of cancer, but the scary part about oral cancer is how many survive. Of the 49,750 people diagnosed this year, only about HALF will be alive in 5 years! This makes oral cancer one of the worst forms of cancer out there!
While these statistics are alarming, there is something that can be done. There are some causative factors that we cannot avoid, such as: age, gender, race, etc, but then there are some we can control. It’s no surprise that tobacco is at the top of this list, followed by excessive alcohol consumption, unprotected exposure to sun, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. Combine the use of tobacco and alcohol together and you significantly increase your risk of oral cancer. Recent studies have shown that HPV-16 has now replaced tobacco as the leading cause of oral cancer.
Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, if you are diagnosed with oral cancer, your chances of being alive in 5 years is approximately 50%. The main reason the death rate is so high is due to discovery so late in development. Most cases present with no pain or symptoms making this a silent killer. If it’s found very early your 5-year survival rate jumps to 83%, but if found late it drops to 32%. So early detection is key! Make sure your dentist performs an oral cancer screening at every cleaning visit, or at least once a year. Hopefully your dentist will have other tools, such as VELscope, which can aid in detecting abnormalities before the naked eye can.
VELscope has become the industries gold standard for early detection of oral cancer and pre-malignant dysplasia. It has proven to be an indispensable tool in detecting early stages of oral cancer. The VELscope is a wireless, handheld scope that uses natural tissue fluorescence to enhance the way clinicians visualize oral mucosa abnormalities. In other words, we can see things with Velscope long before we can see them with the naked eye!
The key to detection is a two step intra/extra oral exam with every six month cleaning. These two steps take no more than five minutes combined. In our dental exams, we will feel the lymph nodes in your neck, and do a thorough oral exam. During these exams we have found several patients with everything from high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and even cancer. These screenings can help detect problems early, often before symptoms arise. Sickness can happen, but we strive for our patients to seek care early to increase their chances of a full and speedy recovery.
For those who survive oral cancer they are forced to deal with a lengthy, painful treatment and possibly permanent disfigurement. This is just one of the ways we are able to provide you with the most up-to-date and advanced care where we do not see you as a patient but as family.
So again, in short, to help prevent oral cancer, here are a list of things you can to do:
– VELscope every year at your dentist. Do not wait for symptoms!
– Don’t use tobacco or drink excessively
– Eat lots of fresh fruits / vegetables and other nutrient rich foods
– Use lip balm with at least 30 SPF