What do tobacco, alcohol, and HPV have in common? The answer is they are all possible causes of oral cancer. Today we want to share some information that can help you reduce your risk of developing this disease.
Here are the preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk.
One of those steps is making regular appointments at the office of Dr. Glerum. As part of our professional cleanings and examinations, we also provide oral cancer screening. We don’t want anyone who visits our dentist office to have oral cancer, but we also know that early detection will greatly improve the benefits of your treatment.
Know What to Look For
Today, 132 people in the United States will learn that they have oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Every hour on average, one American will die as a result of oral cancer. This year, experts estimate that more than 42,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer. Those who are diagnosed early have an 80% chance of surviving more than five years. On the other hand, 43% of those who are diagnosed in the later stages will not survive more than five years.
We will conduct a cancer screening during your routine visits to our office. We also know that a lot can happen between those visits, which is why we want you to know the symptoms, too.
If you notice any of these things, please make plans to visit a physician:
- You have a sore that does not heal after 14 days.
- You have discolored soft tissue. This may be red, white, or both.
- You feel hoarse for a long time.
- You feel numb in or around your mouth.
- You have problems swallowing.
- You have problems moving your tongue or jaw.
- You feel like you have something stuck in your throat.
- You have a lump in your mouth or neck.
- You have ear pain on one side of your face.
How You Can Protect Yourself?
We mentioned that tobacco, alcohol, and HPV can cause oral cancer. In fact, 93% of oral cancers can be traced to known causes. While you may not be able to completely eliminate your chances of having this disease, you can take steps to reduce your risk, such as:
- Avoid Tobacco
Tobacco is bad for your health, and it is extremely bad for your oral health. Tobacco is the leading cause of oral health issues in the United States, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Cigarettes have been found to contain 7,000 chemicals, including more than 70 that are known carcinogens. While smoking has declined nationwide, tobacco still causes 75% of new cancer cases among people 50 and older. Smokeless tobacco is just as detrimental. One study found that people who used chewing tobacco were 14 times more likely to develop oral cancer than people who do not use tobacco. That risk rose to 50 times more likely for people who had used smokeless tobacco for 25 years or more.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption
Lots of people enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time, but heavy alcohol use is the second-leading cause of oral cancer in our country. The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services considers alcohol to be a known carcinogen. Studies have demonstrated that the more alcohol someone consumes, the more likely he or she is to develop oral cancer.
- Don’t Mix Alcohol and Tobacco Use
As bad as tobacco and alcohol are on their own, they are even worse when you use them together. Alcohol can cause your mouth to become dehydrated. This makes it more likely that the chemicals in tobacco will be absorbed by the soft tissues of your mouth.
- Protect Against HPV
Oral cancer cases as a result of HPV infections are on the rise. HPV, the human papillomavirus, will be passed on to 80% of people in the United States, but only 1% of people who are infected will be affected by it. For those unlucky few, HPV can cause oral or cervical cancer. Fortunately, a vaccine has been developed that can protect people against the virus. You should be aware that the vaccine only works if you receive it before you contract the virus. For that reason, federal experts recommend getting vaccinated before you are sexually active. Talk to your doctor to find out if the vaccine could help you or someone you love.
- Get Checked
Please remember, we provide oral cancer screenings during regular examinations at our office. If you haven’t scheduled your next routine cleaning, contact us to make an appointment.
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