In April 2015, Life Smiles offered free oral cancer screenings. The Oral Cancer Foundation is encouraging practices like ours to participate in providing free oral cancer screenings to our communities. A few facts about oral cancer:
- 50,000 people will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year in the US
- 24 people a day die from oral cancer
- The survival rate after 5 years is only 57% (an increase from 50% in past decades)
- Roger Ebert and Michael Douglas were both diagnosed with oral cancer.
- Did you know that oral cancer has been on the rise in younger populations?
Previously, oral cancer was found in people ages 40 and above with a history of smoking/tobacco use. Now, due to the spread of the HPV virus, oral cancer is being found in people much younger and without a history of tobacco use. Risk factors include:
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- The combination of alcohol and tobacco use dramatically increases the risk of the disease.
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Exposure to viral oncogenes (HPV, Herpes)
Early detection, as with all cancers, determines the rate of recovery. Currently, patients have a 57% survival rate after 5 years. This is mostly because oral cancer is so hard to detect early. Your dental professional will conduct a thorough screening at each 6 month dental check up. The most common areas are:
- the back of the throat (i.e. base of the tongue, larynx and pharynx),
- the sides of the tongue,
- and in "pockets" of skin between the teeth and lips (typically due to use of chewing tobacco).