Oral Cancer: A Yearly Screening Could Save Your Life!

Here are some sobering facts. Approximately 37,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the U.S. That is over 100 individuals each and every day. An additional 12,000 will develop cancer of the throat. Worldwide, nearly 640,000 new cases of oral cancer will be discovered every year. Statistically, 57% of those people will not survive 5 years. That is over 21,000 deaths nationally and almost 350,000 globally. Each year, oral cancer kills more people in the U.S. than skin cancer, lymphatic cancer, thyroid cancer or cervical cancer.
Historically, oral cancer has been most likely to occur after the age of 50. However, the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population is people in the 25-50 year old age range. Most of this younger group are non-smokers. These people are developing oral cancer from the oncogenic virus HPV16. This is the same virus responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers. This virus can be sexually transmitted between partners and accounts for the increase in young, non-smoking victims of oral cancer.
Tobacco use in any form by itself, and even more so in combination with heavy alcohol consumption, remains the primary risk factor for oral cancer. However, if current trends continue, HPV may become the dominant cause in the next decade.
Many times oral cancers have no early symptoms. This is why so many are diagnosed when the cancer is in the advance stages (stages three or four). Some signs and symptoms include red or white discolorations in the mouth, sores that do not heal, hoarseness that lasts for prolonged periods, numbness in an oral region, difficulty swallowing, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, a lump or thickening in the mouth or neck, or a sensation that something is stuck in your throat.
There is good news. If oral cancer is detected early (in stages one or two) the survival rate is 80-90%. In a painless, three to five minute oral cancer screening, most of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can be seen with the naked eye or felt with the fingers. Suspect tissues can be easily biopsied for a definitive diagnosis. Unlike most other cancer detecting exams, the screening for oral cancer does not require any special equipment, pain, high cost, invasive tests or procedures. This screening is done by your dentist or hygienist at every routine dental exam.
Regular dental check-ups can reduce the death rate of oral cancer. When coupled with an oral cancer detecting device such as the VELscope, you are giving yourself the best odds of finding any oral cancers early and having them treated successfully. So PLEASE get a dental check up at least yearly. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. Consider having a VELscope exam, and by all means have any possible sign or symptom checked out as soon as possible.
Thanks for Reading
Dr. Bruce