April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Over 9,000 women and 21,000 men in the United States receive an oral cancer diagnosis each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. In total, over 30,000 new oral cancer diagnosis is made each year in the United States. Most of them are more than 60 years old.
In addition to keeping your gums and teeth healthy, your dentist can help you to take an active role in monitoring your mouth for signs or oral cancer. Therefore, the next time you have a dental appointment, ask your dentist about conducting an oral cancer screening test for you.
By carefully examining your mouth's soft tissues, your dentist will be able to feel if there are any irregular tissue changes or lumps present in your cheeks, head, neck, or throughout your oral cavity. Your dentist can provide a thorough look to see if there are any discolored tissue or sores, that may be indicative of oral cancer.
While your dentist may have been performing an oral cancer screening without you knowing it, it's prudent to confirm that you dentist plans to conduct this type a screening as part of his or her annual dental exam. If not discovered, diagnosed, and treated early, oral cancer can be a deadly disease; the five-year survival rate stands at about 50 percent for oral cancer.
Possible symptoms or warning signs of oral cancer may include hard spots, bleeding sores, lumps or thick spots, sores that don't heal, difficulty swallowing, difficulty chewing, ear pain, hoarseness, changes in teeth fit, tongue numbness, difficulty in moving the tongue or jaw and feeling that something is caught in the throat.