Approximately 11,000 people die in the U.S. annually from oral and oropharyngeal cancers, but Virginia dentists are pointing to early detection and treatment as critical tools to boost survival rates.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and the Virginia Dental Association is joining with other medical professionals and groups to encourage people to schedule regular dental checkups, while educating patients about common cancer warning signs.
About 54,000 people across the country will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers this year.
Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers occur most on the tongue, tonsils and oropharynx, the gums, floor of the mouth and other parts of the mouth. The oropharynx is the middle part of the throat, behind the mouth.
Data collected by the CDC reveals that 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are likely caused by the HPV virus.
Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer than women. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers older than 50 are the most at-risk. Excess body weight and poor nutrition are also risk factors.
Experts highlight that early detection may result in better treatment outcomes. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is 60 percent.
During a regular dental visit, dentists will ask patients about their medical histories and if the person has experienced any new or unusual symptoms, in addition to examining the patient’s oral cavity, throat, jaw and neck.
People should see a dentist if the following signs and symptoms do not disappear in two weeks:
- A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy campaign.
About the Virginia Dental Association
The Virginia Dental Association is affiliated with the American Dental Association and has 4,000 members across the Commonwealth. The VDA’s mission is to represent and serve member dentists by fostering quality oral health care and education. The VDA provides continuing education, advocacy and practice support for its member dentists to further that mission.