Oral Cancer & Risk Factors
by Linh Cao-Chan, DDS on 12/18/17
Each time you come in for your dental cleaning, you'll notice I start with a lower jaw massage. Then I'll look around at your lips and cheeks and gums and make you do some tongue gymnastics. So all those actions are for oral cancer screening. I am looking for lumps (lymph nodes ) by your jaw line, red or white bumps or markings on your gums, tongue and cheeks. Cancer in the mouth 5-year survival rate is about 57%, which is rather low. Early detection helps increase survival rate tremendously, and that's why I'm doing the oral screening each time you come in for your checkup. It's like having your dermatologist re-evaluate all your sun spots and skin discolorations for any changes. Definitely let me know if you've noticed changes in your mouth.
Oral cancer used to be a seen more in higher risk patients with a history of alcohol and tobacco abuse, but now it's seen in population that never smoked or drink much. Studies have shown an increase in oral cancers linked to human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted disease. Up to 80% of Americans will have had HPV infection in their lifetime, but didn't know they had it because it cleared up and didn't need treatment. The good news is that there is a HPV vaccine, but it works best for children 11-12yo (before they become sexually active). They also recommend the vaccine for those 13-26 yo, so if you fall in that age range ask your doctor about it. If you can decrease your chances of getting oral cancer and HPV, why not take advantage of that! More info here.