Oral Cancer: Are You at Risk?

Did you know that over 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year? In five short years, nearly half of them will lose their battle against the fatal disease. The death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high, and it’s not because there isn’t an effective treatment. Cancers of the head and neck are routinely discovered late in development, after the cancer has metastasized to another location, often the lymph nodes of the neck. In the early stages of oral cancer, primary tumors often invade deep into local structures without causing pain or other symptoms, making it difficult for patients to even notice any changes. Survival rates significantly decrease as the tumor grows and spreads undetected.

Historically, oral cancers have been primarily detected in men and women over the age of 40, however in recent years, the disease is being found more frequently in younger adults. Recent research has linked the human papilloma virus (HPV) number 16 to an the increase in oral cancers in younger Americans. Smokeless tobacco products have also been connected. Traditionally, at least 75% of those diagnosed at 50 and older have been tobacco users, and when tobacco is combined with heavy alcohol use, the risk is significantly increased. Besides these lifestyle factors, others that put you at risk for developing oral cancer include exposure to ultraviolet radiation, biological factors such as viruses and fungi, and genetic predisposition.

Oral cancer is one of the more dangerous forms of the fatal disease because it often goes undetected in the early stages. The good news is that your dentist will likely be able to detect changes in your oral cavity before you do, so with regular check-ups, early detection is possible.  In addition to physical signs of concern, tests to detect oral cancer in the early stages have been recently developed. The professionals at Miami Dental Sedation Spa use Vizilite Plus to screen for oral cancer. It is a very simple technology that involves a mouth rinse and exam under a specially designed light. The procedure is completely painless, quick and effective, and is now included in our annual comprehensive oral screening protocol. Early detection of oral cancer is critical in the fight against it. Have you had your screening?

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