SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI — This year, approximately 42,000 people in the U.S. will find out they have a form of oral cancer and more than 8,000 people will die from it. (http://oralcancerfoundation.org/events/oral-cancer-awareness-month.html)
“All types of cancer and every death caused by them is tragic, but what makes this even worse is that had these cases been caught early enough, they probably would not have died,” says Dr. Marc Barnett, who has been a one of Springfield MO dentists since 1984.
In April, which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, our office will be offering free oral cancer screenings like we have done in previous years. We are joining with the Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness.
Although oral cancer is a serious disease, 90 percent of cases can be cured if found in their earliest stages, according to the OCF. Lack of awareness about oral, head and neck cancers and lack of routine screenings are the biggest problems.
“We need to raise awareness and continue to draw attention to how essential it is to get routine screenings that check for the signs and symptoms of oral cancer,” says Dr. Tracy Davis, a Nixa dentist.
This type of cancer is very treatable. The OCF estimates that 90 percent of the cases can be cured when diagnosed early. Too often the cancer is discovered because it metastasized to another location, typically lymph nodes in the neck. When cancer has metastasized, the prognosis is much worse than when the cancer is still localized in the oral area.
“Annual screenings are very important, but you need to be aware of any changes in your mouth or throat as well,” says Dr. Kelly Barnett, an award-winning cosmetic dental expert. “If you spot any of the symptoms, please contact us or your general physician immediately.”
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer (http://oralcancerfoundation.org/diagnosis/index.htm)
• A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks.
• A lump or thickening in the cheek.
• A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of the mouth.
• A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
• Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
• Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
• Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
• Chronic hoarseness.
The majority of head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use, but there is another risk factor that continues to increase and seems to effect young, non-tobacco users. According to Johns Hopkins Head & Neck Cancer Center as many as 80 percent of oropharyngeal— the tonsils and the back of the tongue — cancers in the U.S. are due to infection with the HPV virus. The risk of oral cancer can be reduced by avoiding all tobacco products, limiting alcohol intake and practicing safe sex. (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/centers/head_neck/HPV_and_head_and_neck_cancer/hpv.html)
“Routine dental check-ups, cleanings and screenings can be your first line of defense in detecting many life-threatening ailments, including oral cancer,” says Dr. Nick Matthews, a porcelain veneers expert. “Call us and schedule your appointment. It is a quick, simple, free procedure that could save your life.”