April is oral cancer awareness month. Do you know exactly what’s going on inside your mouth? Spotting oral cancer can be a difficult task on your own. The small abnormalities that could point to cancerous tissues can be tiny and painless. It’s therefore incredibly important to maintain regular oral cancer screenings.
At Dr. Kim Okamura’s office, screenings and dental exams go hand in hand. Every time you visit our office for a checkup, Dr. Okamura will carefully screen your mouth and throat for signs of problems. Read on to learn more about why oral cancer screenings are so important, and what those screenings will entail.
Know Your Oral Cancer Stats
Knowing the facts behind oral cancer will motivate you to take precautions against it. While modern medical technology and improving nutrition have helped reduce instances of some cancers, oral cancer continues to have a tragically high development rate and death rate. This year, about 43,350 Americans will be diagnosed with oral/pharyngeal cancer, and over 8,000 will die from it. Of the newly diagnosed, about 57% will be alive 5 years from now.
Oral cancer patients’ mortality rate is high because oral cancer is commonly detected late in its life. Providing effective and lifesaving treatment is far simpler when the cancer is identified before it has had time to spread. Those with early detection and treatment have an 80-90% chance of surviving the next 5 years. Staggeringly, late detection of cancer drops 5-year survival rates down to only 25-30%.
Oral cancer can develop in many parts of your mouth and throat. These include your
- Front 2/3 of the tongue
- The gums
- The inside of the cheeks
- The roof of the mouth
- The bottom of the mouth, beneath the tongue
- The area behind your wisdom teeth, at the back of your mouth
Certain patients have a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Some determining factors are
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Genetic predisposition
- Age (2/3 of patients with oral cancer are over 55)
- Gender (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, but this may also be linked to tobacco and alcohol use)
If you fall into one of these categories, it’s possible that we will want to see you for more frequent screenings.
Seattle Oral Cancer Screening
Dr. Okamura performs a visual oral cancer screening with every dental exam. If we see anything that could potentially be problematic, we will refer you to a specialist so that you can receive immediate, expert care. Your oral cancer screening is a key part of your dental exam, and one that many patients may not know is regularly performed. By gaining the confirmation that your mouth is lesion-free, you’ll be able to get back to daily life with a renewed sense of health and comfort. We want every one of our patients to be aware of their oral health level, and prepared to take steps to maintain that well-being.
Staying in Touch with Your Oral Health
Your oral health is a vital part of your larger-scale systemic health. The mouth is connected to many other parts of your body – and vice versa. And your mouth is far more accessible than, say, your heart or your blood sugar, so it’s a great place to focus your disease prevention and ongoing upkeep. Brushing, flossing, paying attention to what your mouth is telling you, and seeking regular dental exams (every 6 months, on average) will keep you in touch with your dental health, and prevent more serious problems.
Ready to schedule your next exam? Contact us today!