Friday, April 29, 2011

Preventing Oral Cancer

Below is another cancer prevention article I thought was informative.

"Besides preventing cavities, a periodic dental cleaning or checkup could save your life.

Along with preventing and detection of cavities, a routine cleaning is an opportune time to check the mouth for signs of oral cancer.

As part of National Oral Cancer Prevention Week, Dr. Jeffery Capes, an oral surgeon with Coastal Oral Surgery on St. Simons Island, is encouraging patients to ensure that their dental health professional check for possible signs of cancer.

"About 8,000 people die of oral cancer a year," Capes said. "That's about one person every hour, every day."

The Oral Cancer Foundation predicts about 37,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and in the past five years, the number has been growing.

Unfortunately, it often is detected in its latter stages, when about 45 percent die within five years of diagnosis.

"And that death rate hasn't changed in five, 10, 20 years, while the survival rate for other cancers has," Capes said.

Oral cancer has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors and spread to the neck and lymph nodes. The primary tumor can also invade deep into the tissues of the mouth or jaw.

Persons who survive a first encounter with the disease face a possible 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer and the risk can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence.

When found early, the survival rate of oral cancer can be as high as 90 percent. Oral cancer in its early stages isn't difficult to discover, but a lack of awareness and a national program for screenings may be reasons why it's not detected earlier and death rates are so high, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports.

When the cancer starts producing pain, it's often progressed into its later stages, Capes said. "There's usually nothing as far as pain a patient will notice in the beginning," he said.

White or red patches on the tongue or floor of the mouth that last more than two weeks should be checked by an oral health professional, Capes said. "They can take a biopsy of it and results will dictate what to do next," Capes said.

In the past, persons over age 40, especially men, had been most at risk for oral cancer. Recently, however, the proportion of women and the young diagnosed with the disease has been climbing.

Smoking and alcohol consumption are the main risk factors for the disease and, lately, studies suggest the human papilloma virus (HPV) may also be a causing agent.

"Really, people should have a soft tissue exam during their six-month (dental) checkup," Capes said."