April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. No one likes to think about cancer. We’ve all lost loved ones, we’ve all had questionable test results, and we all fervently hope for a cure. Until the day when there is a cure, our best weapons in the fight against cancer are prevention and early detection.
When it comes to oral cancer, most people won’t recognize they have a problem until the cancer is already in an advanced stage. Oral cancer is nearly invisible and painless at first. However, our office is equipped to screen our patients for oral cancer and save lives.
What is an oral cancer screening like?
Oral cancer screenings are quick and painless. We carefully examine all of the surfaces inside your mouth for slight tissue changes that could mean cancer. The hardest part of the exam is when we ask you to lift your tongue so that we can check underneath it.
If we find any questionable tissue, we’ll refer you to the appropriate specialist for further examination and treatment.
How often do I need an oral cancer screening?
Most people need oral cancer screenings every six months to a year, depending on their personal risk factors. If you’re up-to-date on your regular dental checkups, we have great news for you – you’re also up-to-date on your cancer screens. We screen all of our patients for oral cancer at their regular visits.
If you haven't been to the dentist in more than six months, it's time to get screened. Call for an appointment for a cleaning, and we'll make sure you get screened when you're in our chair.
How can I prevent oral cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic, lifestyle changes can help prevent oral cancer. To protect yourself:
- Avoid tobacco products. If you smoke or chew, ask your doctor for help quitting!
- Avoid heavy drinking.
- Wear sunscreen on your lips. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause mouth cancer!
- If you can, get vaccinated for HPV. This sexually-transmitted virus can cause oral cancer as well as cervical cancer, but a vaccine is now available!
- Exercise, eat your vegetables, and generally embrace healthy living. The same lifestyle tips that prevent other cancers can also prevent oral cancer!
- See your dentist twice a year. Many people do everything right, but still get cancer. But when we catch oral cancer early, the prognosis is good.
Do you or a family member need an oral cancer screening? Book a dental appointment today and protect yourself from oral cancer!