There are a lot of myths surrounding oral and oropharyngeal cancers. Unfortunately, cancers of the mouth are on the rise in the US and the need for regular screening is higher than ever. If you find yourself believing that oral cancer only affects smokers, or that it’s not really all that common, your dentist in Midtown East is here to set the record straight. The Drs. Boyd dispel common oral cancer myths in this week’s blog post!
Myth #1: Oral Cancer Isn’t That Common
In 2017, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that there will be more than 49,000 new cases of oral and pharynx cancers in the United States alone. When found at early stages of development, oral cancers have an 80 to 90% survival rate. Unfortunately, at this time, the majority are found as late stage cancers, and this accounts for the very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis. Compare that to cervical cancer, which you hear about a lot more frequently — it’s estimated there will be around 12,800 new cases of cancers of the cervix this year. The truth is that awareness of oral cancers remains unfortunately low, even as the prevalence continues to rise.
Myth #2: Oral Cancer Only Affects Smokers
Historically, oral cancer has been closely linked to smoking and alcohol use. Both habits remain high on the list of risk factors, but one of the fastest-growing pathways for oral cancer is through the human papillomavirus (HPV). More nonsmokers are being diagnosed with oral cancer every hour in the United States.
Other risk factors for oral cancer include…
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop oral cancer.
- Fair skin
- Poor oral hygiene
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Poor diet/nutrition
- Marijuana use
Myth #3: Young People Don’t Get It
Not true. Due to the prevalence of HPV, oral cancer is affecting younger and healthier patients than ever before. The disease is affecting a significant portion of young nonsmoking males, especially.
Myth #4: The Symptoms of Oral Cancer Are Obvious
Sometimes it’s easy to see a cancerous area, like a lesion that won’t heal in the cheek or on the gums. Other times, the symptoms of oral cancer may remain unnoticed for a long time — especially cancer related to HPV. Oral cancers located on the base or back of the tongue, in the tonsils, or around the lymphoid tissue may escape notice for years.
Raising awareness about the other symptoms of oral cancer is important for increasing the chances of early detection. Watch out for these warning signs and get the attention you need right away:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change in the tone of voice
- Ear pain
- Lump in the throat
- Unexplained weight loss
Myth #5: I Don’t Need an Oral Cancer Screening
Many people don’t make a point of getting regular oral cancer screenings because they just don’t really believe they are at risk. But with the rates of oral cancer rapidly on the rise, we want to remind patients that everyone over the age of 18 should get an oral cancer screening at least once a year during one of their two dental hygiene appointments.
Request an Appointment Today!
When was your last examination for oral cancer? If it’s been awhile, or if you’ve never had one at all, it’s time to visit the Drs. Boyd! Request an appointment for a checkup and cleaning, and let us know you need an oral cancer screening when you do.