Today is National “Everything You Think is Wrong” day, which is kind of silly, but it inspired us to think about things we know there are lots of misconceptions about. One of the topics that we feel has the most mystery around it is oral cancer. According to Cancer.org, about About 53,000 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer and an estimated 10,860 people will die of these cancers.
This is unfortunate, because it’s something that could impact any of us at any time. It is so important to know the facts and know what to look for. Every check-up we do includes a cancer screen. As long as you’re keeping up with your six month appointments, we can catch symptoms early and get them checked out. If you have risk factors, we can give you advice so you know what to watch for in between your appointments.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about some of the myths and facts surrounding oral cancer:
Myth vs. Fact
MYTH: Oral cancer could sneak up on you without warning.
FACT: There are usually signs that you will notice as you brush and floss. For example, mouth ulcers. While occasional ulcers are normal, if you have one that doesn’t heal in three weeks, that’s something you’ll want to get checked out. White and/or red patches in the mouth are also a sign that something might be wrong. Unusual lumps or swelling in the neck, head, or mouth are also common symptoms. This is why your dentist will check your neck and head during your check-up!
MYTH: Only people who smoke or have smoked for a long time are at risk.
FACT: Tobacco use is one of the most common risk factors for mouth cancer, along with excessive alcohol consumption. However, there are many other risk factors. HPV (the human papillomavirus) is becoming a much more prominent cause of mouth cancer. It can be transmitted through oral sex, so it’s important to be tested and practice safe sex. Also, if the vaccine is available to you, it is a great option to further protect yourself. Finally, excessive unprotected sun exposure can lead to mouth cancer. Always use SPF, especially on your lips!
MYTH: Oral cancer is not as serious or deadly as other cancers.
FACT: Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Oral cancers often go unnoticed, which means by the time you feel pain or discomfort, it has spread to other parts of the body — typically the neck. Additionally, oral cancers caused by the HPV virus typically originate in the back of the mouth, which causes it to go undiscovered.
Another concerning aspect of oral cancer is its ability to produce secondary tumors. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, “patients who survive a first encounter with the disease have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence.”
What You Can Do
So, what do you think? Maybe everything you knew about oral cancer wasn’t wrong, but we bet you learned some important facts after reading this blog post. Be sure to spread the knowledge to the people in your life so we can all be more proactive. And of course, don’t forget to schedule those six month check-ups. They are SO important, not only for spotting oral cancer symptoms early, but also for removing stubborn plaque and tartar that can lead to more serious problems down the road.
Are you looking for a cosmetic dentist in Lakeview? We’d love to be your dental team! Give Sugar Fix Dental Loft a call at (773) 883-1818 or schedule your appointment online right from our website!