Q:  I have heard that survival rate for Oral Cancer is a frightening 50% – is that true?

A good habit for the New Year!

A:  Yes it is. Because two-thirds of oral cancers are not detected until the later stages of the disease, the prognosis poor. The five year survival rate really is only about 50%.  This is particularly heartbreaking because oral cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancerwhen detected early, and your dentist has a simple, inexpensive way to detect it!

 As with all types of cancer, oral lesions that are detected early offer a much better chance for successful treatment, but 67% of people diagnosed with oral cancer are already in stage three or four which are much more difficult to treat.  Patients with oral cancer may have no pain or obvious symptoms.  The first sign of trouble may be abnormal-looking cells or lesions on the surface of the mouth or tongue which could go unnoticed for a long time, especially if you are not having regular dental check-ups.

 When we think of oral cancer, we think of old people who have been smoking for years, but alarmingly, more that 25% of oral cancers occur in people who don’t smoke and who have no other lifestyle risk factors.  

The medical profession has made huge strides in reducing the mortality rate from other cancers; breast cancer, cervical and prostate cancers.  Much of this improvement has come from more effective methods for screening the healthy population to detect abnormalities earlier and earlier in the disease process.  

 Recent developments in dentistry have made a reliable screening method available to patients as part of their routine dental visits.  The screening is quick (about ten minutes), painless and involves the use of stains and a special incandescent light which illuminates suspicious cells.  It is inexpensive (currently less than $30 or less than the cost of a decent haircut) and is (should be) performed annually as part of a routine hygiene visit (in adults over the age of.....?). 

Oral health is intimately linked to overall health and this is one more reason why people should have regular, six-monthly dental check-ups.  Ask your Dentist about oral cancer screening at your next visit.  

If you would like to know more about oral cancer, oral cancer screenings or any other matters linked to your oral health, please email Dr. Petronio at info@auroradentalcare.com

With each recall appointment you have – we always keep a keen eye for telltale signs like lumps and discoloration, and for suspicious areas or roughness or of any change whatsoever. We check your whole mouth (the top of the tongue and underneath, your lips, cheek lining, and gums).  To help us out, make sure you play an active role in early detection too.  Make it a habit to “know your mouth” and regularly examine it for any changes.  

1)    Lift your upper lip and check for discoloration or sores on your lips and gums.  The repeat for your lower lip.

2)    Check your inner cheeks for white, red or dark patches.  Use your finger to feel the cheek surface for lumps or roughness.  

3)    Look at the roof of your mouth.  Any changes?

4)    Check your tongue – top, side and bottom – for any color changes or swelling.

 If you find an area of concern, call us right away.  And always remember, like we do....the first step in prevention and successful treatment is awareness.