Approximately 49,750 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017. And, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 5 years after diagnosis only half will be alive. These statistics might come as a shock to you but, no worries, oral cancer can be easily detected by having regular screenings.
A lot of people assume that if they don’t smoke or drink alcohol they are unaffected by oral cancer. Sadly, that’s not the case. Although tobacco and alcohol use are the most well-known causes of oral cancer, there are many other factors. Causes of oral cancer can be tied to age and gender as well. Men and people over the age of 55 are more likely to be diagnosed. People that have the HPV virus are more susceptible as well. Approximately 9,000 cases of head and neck cancer each year are associated with the virus. A poor diet can lead to oral cancer as well; so make sure you’re not leaving out fruits and vegetables from your diet! And, believe it or not, people that have jobs working outdoors are also more prone to develop lip cancer due to the sun exposure. In that case, always having UV protection can help prevent it.
So, what can your dentist do to help? You may not even realize it, but during your regular hygiene visits your dentist is doing an oral cancer screening during the exam. At that point, he/she is looking for anything that looks unusual or suspicious. If anything looks unusual the doctor will either keep an eye on it or refer you for further testing. Keeping up with your regular dental visits is crucial so that oral cancer can be caught as soon as it appears. If it is caught in the early stages, the survival rate is 80 to 90 percent. With that being said, early detection is key!