Oral Cancer Screenings Save Lives!
WHEN PEOPLE GO TO THE DENTIST, it’s generally because they have a toothache, they need some dental work done, or they want to get their teeth cleaned. But this month being Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we want to emphasize more than ever how important regular, twice-yearly dental exams are. Of course, your dentist will make sure you don’t have any cavities, but what you may not realize is that regular dental exams could actually save your life. We love our patients at McOmie Family Dentistry too much not to check them for oral cancer as much as possible.
Throughout life, people get regular exams screening for cancer such as mammograms and colonoscopies. These preventative health care exams are extremely important for detecting any abnormalities–including cancer–early, so they can be treated as soon as possible. These exams save lives. So do oral cancer screenings.
Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that a regular oral cancer screening is just as important as these other preventative exams. We want our patients to know that coming in to see us every six months isn’t just to make sure you don’t have cavities; it can actually save your life.
WE HAVE A TELESCOPE! This is an instrument that helps us detect oral cancer earlier and easier. If oral cancer is caught in stage one treatment is simple and highly successful. If oral cancer is caught in stage 3 or 4, the 5-year survival rate drops to 15%. Here at McOmie Family Dentistry, we want to do everything we can to make sure nothing slips past us. Dr. Mark McOmie does oral cancer screenings on every patient. They do this for free! Insurance won’t pay for it and they think it is the right thing to do. Even if you have are not a patient of McOmie Family Dentistry you can still come in for a free screening anytime. It is painless and easy to be screened.
What You Need To Know About Oral Cancer
Some people think oral cancer is rare, but here are the facts: approximately 132 individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer each day in the United States alone, and someone dies of oral cancer every hour. There are 400,000 people throughout the world who are diagnosed with oral cancer every year–in the U.S. alone, that’s about 100 new cases every day. It is a particularly deadly cancer–only about half of the oral cancer patients survive five years past their initial diagnosis. Chattanooga has a higher than the national average of oral cancers. But what we really want you to remember is that early detection saves lives. When oral cancer is detected early, survival rates increase by 80 to 90 percent! This can NOT be emphasized enough!
These statistics are frightening, but there is some good news: early detection of oral cancer can boost survival rates by 80 to 90 percent. The reason oral cancer is so harmful is that many patients aren’t diagnosed until late in the game. By raising awareness about this disease and the need for regular screenings, we hope to help stop that from happening.
Be Aware Of The Risk Factors
Certain lifestyle activities can put you at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Familiarize yourself with these risk factors:
- Tobacco use–Smoking and other tobacco use makes you three times more likely to develop oral cancer
- Age–Two-thirds of individuals with oral cancer are over age 55
- UV exposure–Frequent and prolonged exposure to sunlight increases your risk of developing lip cancer
- Alcohol consumption–Drinking alcohol more than doubles your risk of oral cancer
While knowing the risks can help us prevent oral cancer, it still occurs in people without any of the above risk factors. In fact, it is becoming increasingly more prevalent among non-smoking, healthy individuals. The reason for this shift is the rise of HPV, or human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted infection. Individuals with HPV are 32 times more likely to develop oral cancer–even more so than tobacco users.
30% of oral cancer is found in people without any risk factors! 30% that is crazy. Early detection is the answer to survival. If oral cancer is found in stage 3 or 4 there is only a 15% survival rate. Dr. McOmie doesn’t think this is acceptable in modern dentistry. We aim to not have single cancer found in late-stage, our goal is to find cancer early when treatment is simple and highly successful.
Get Screened Regularly At Routine Dental Exams
Oral cancer often begins as a painless sore in the mouth. We encourage doing frequent self-checks at home as well as visiting your dentist regularly, where you will receive routine oral cancer screenings.
Monitor Abnormalities In The Mouth
If you experience any of these symptoms, come in to see us right away:
- A lump or thickening of your cheek
- A white or red patch on any part of your inner mouth or throat
- Numbness inside the mouth
- A sore inside your mouth that doesn’t heal within two weeks
- Difficulty with swallowing, chewing, or moving the tongue or jaw
The most important thing you can do to combat oral cancer is to get regular screenings. Dental professionals are the first line of defense against this disease and we are often the first health care professionals to notice any abnormalities.
Let our dentist Dr. Mark McOmie know if you have any tingling, pain, or something you just don’t think is right. They can check it out and let you know what is going on.