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The word “cancer” can strike fear into anyone’s heart. There are many types of cancers, but oral cancer is a common type of cancer that isn’t discussed often enough. It is not difficult to diagnose but fatality rates are high because it is often not detected until too late in its development. Everyone should know about oral health and schedule a regular oral cancer screening to prevent problems. 

Oral Cancer Statistics 

The American Cancer Society projects that there will be more than 58,000 cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer in 2024, leading to over 12,000 deaths. The average age of individuals diagnosed with these types of cancer is 64, but about 20 percent of cases strike people younger than 55. These cancers are more than twice as common in men compared to women. It is projected that the lifetime risk of developing one of these cancers is about 1 in 59 for men and 1 in 139 for women on average. Of note, the incidence rates and death rates of these cancers have increased yearly despite the ease of scheduling a regular oral cancer screening. Individual survival rates depend on a person’s overall health and age, how the cancer responds to treatment protocols, and how early the cancer was diagnosed.

How Often Should Everyone Have an Oral Cancer Screening 

Because early detection can have a significantly positive impact on a patient’s chances of successful treatment, it is recommended that adults ages 20-40 have a regular oral cancer screening every three years. Those over the age of 40 should have an annual screening. People with risk factors should especially make sure that they have an annual screening. These include adults who use tobacco, are heavy alcohol drinkers, have human papillomavirus (HPV), or have a family history of cancer incidence.

What is an Oral Cancer Screening 

A dentist will do a clinical exam of a patient’s mouth and throat. He/she will look for abnormalities including bumps, patches of unusual color, ulcerations, and swelling. The exam will cover the floor and roof of the mouth, tonsils, inner cheek linings, gums, lips, and tongue. The dentist will also palpate the neck, under the chin, outside cheeks, and the jaw to feel if there are any masses or firm nodules present. If abnormalities are found, the dentist may also use a laser light, blue dye, or an acetic acid mixture to examine the abnormalities. Self-examination is recommended, but it does not substitute for professional oral cancer screening.

Potential Signs of Oral Cavity Cancer 

The signs of potential oral cavity cancer include a lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal, a lump in the mouth or on the lips, a white or red patch on the tongue, lining of the mouth, or tongue, unusual pain or bleeding, and pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing. When these signs occur, see your dentist for an oral cancer screening.

Seek Professional Dental Care 

Contact Old Mt. Pleasant Dentistry, located right off Ben Sawyer Blvd, in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. for dental care you can trust. We use treatment plans that are practical and use the utmost care for pain control using the most advanced technology. To us, the patient is the most important person in the office.