Dr Jim here! April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to discuss some important statistics regarding oral cancer. Approximately 43,250 people will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014. This is the fifth year in a row there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence of oral cancers.
There are two distinct pathways by which people contract oral cancer. The first is the chronic use of tobacco and/or alcohol. the other is the exposure to the human papilloma virus version 16 (HPV-16). This virus is the same version found in the vast majority of cervical cancers in women. Less than 7% of oral cancers are contracted from a different pathway and those are thought to be from a genetic predisposition. It is a known fact that one person dies from oral cancer every day. Unfortunately, oral cancer is often found in the later stages which accounts for a 43% mortality rate at five years.
75% of all head and neck cancers begin in the oral cavity. 30% of oral cancers originate in the tongue, 17% the lip, and 14% in the floor of the mouth. However, with the emergence of HPV-16, the tonsils, tonsillar pillar and crypt, the base of the tongue, and the oropharynx and becoming more common possible sites.
All of these statistics are sobering and highlight the importance of oral cancer exams at least once a year at your recare appointments. We have two sets of eyes on you at your recare appointment. Your dental hygienist begins your appointment with an oral cancer screening and lets Dr. Matt, Dr. Garrett, or myself when we come in for your exam. In addition, we are looking as well when we do our exam. In addition, if you see any abnormalities or feel any unusual discomfort, please make us aware of it so that we can assess the situation. Any suspicious lesions are monitored very closely and, if they don’t resolve in a short period of time, are candidates for biopsy and analysis. Our goal is to discover oral cancer at an early and curable stage.
So please feel free to ask us if we will be doing an oral cancer exam at your next visit. And, if you feel like you want to be seen sooner, just call the office and ask for a complimentary oral cancer screening. We will be happy to get you in as soon as possible.