April is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and at our Indianapolis dental office, we know just how serious this epidemic is in the United States. In fact, just over 51,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with it this year. While there have been advancements in oral cancer treatment, and often times the disease is successfully treated, it still takes the lives of approximately 10,000 Americans yearly. This April, join us in learning the risks and symptoms of oral cancer that could save your life.
Know The Risks
It’s important to note that anyone can develop oral cancer whether they have or engage in factors that increase their risk or not. Some of the risks are unavoidable, but many can be controlled through making smart lifestyle choices. Some factors that increase the risk of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco Use: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or using smokeless tobacco greatly increases your risk of oral cancer. Statistics show that 80% of oral cancer diagnoses are in tobacco users.
- Drinking Alcohol: Consuming alcohol regularly can also put you at greater risk. Nearly 70% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
- Drinking & Smoking: Since both tobacco use and drinking large amounts of alcohol increases the likelihood of getting oral cancer, if you do both, your chance for oral cancer can be as high as 100%.
- Gender: Men are two times more likely to develop oral cancer than women. While this risk factor can’t be changed, men can reduce their risk by not drinking or smoking.
- Age: Our chances of getting oral cancer increases as we age. The average age of diagnosis is 62, and the majority of oral cancer patients are at least 55.
- UV Rays: Skin cancer isn’t the only thing that can happen from too much unprotected sun exposure. Oral cancer is also higher in those who spend a lot of time in the sun without wearing sunscreen.
Recognize The Symptoms
Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of oral cancer early increases the chance of survival. Oral cancer treatment is often successful in the earlier stages, so the sooner you see your dentist in Indianapolis if you suspect anything, the better. The most common signs include:
- Chronic bad breath
- Sores that won’t heal
- A lump on the cheek
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in your voice
During your regular dental cleanings and exams, your hygienist and dentist will monitor your mouth for any abnormalities and can use high-tech equipment that can show what the human eye can’t see. This is just another reason maintaining your bi-annual dental appointments is so important to your overall health.
If it’s been longer than six months since your last visit, call our dental office in Indianapolis to schedule an appointment today. You never know, one visit could save your life.