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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

Approximately 40,000 Americans will receive a diagnosis of oral cancer, a type of head and neck cancer found inside the mouth, including cheeks, floor of the mouth, and tongue. A deadly disease, the cure rates historically for oral cancer cases diagnosed during the late stages of the disease have been low. This is why catching the disease early is so urgent.

Screening through clinical examination of the oral cavity is one method downtown Portland Oregon dentist Dr. Bajuscak uses for the early detection of oral cancer in patients, especially those at a higher risk of the disease. Even though a recent study conducted by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force found insufficient evidence for the organization to begin recommending screening of the general public by their primary physicians, other studies have found that screenings targeting high-risk individuals, such as smokers and drinkers, led to a significant reduction in the number of deaths caused by oral cancer.

Major Risk Factors

The majority of oral cancer cases are a type referred to as squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the flat, thin cells that line the interior of the oral cavity. The most significant risk factor for the development of oral cancer is tobacco use, especially smoking cigarettes. Even light smoking elevates an individual’s oral cancer risk, and that risk continues to grow the more cigarettes a person smokes per day and for how long they’ve smoked. If an individual smokes and drinks, their risk of oral cancer rises exponentially.

Individuals at high risk for the disease will have the opportunity to get screened and learn more about oral cancer during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week 2015, which takes place April 12-18. During this week-long event to raise awareness of the disease, many hospitals and health centers across the U.S. will offer free oral cancer screenings and educational materials. The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance offers a list of offices providing free screenings here on their website.

Oral Cancers Linked HPV on the Rise

When compared to prostate, neck and other well-known types of cancer, neck, head and oral cancers have received far less media attention. This lack of coverage has started to change in recent years as the number of head and neck cancers linked to human papillomavirus continue to rise. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., and is the same virus that causes cervical cancer. Cancer caused by oral HPV is primarily found in the oropharynx (the area located at the back of the throat) most frequently in the base of the tongue and the tonsils. While the average age of patients diagnosed with oral cavity cancer is 62, individuals suffering from an HPV-related strand of the disease tend to be younger in age.

Currently, the FDA has not approved any test for the use of diagnosing HPV in the throat or mouth, so it’s important to catch HPV-related cancer early. The key to spotting the disease early is to learn about the potential signs and symptoms the disease may exhibit.

Primary Symptoms

Be sure to talk with Dr. Bajuscak if you notice any of the following symptoms lasting longer than one or two weeks:

  • Pain in the throat or mouth
  • Bleeding in the throat or mouth
  • Numbness of the tongue or lips, especially if isolated to one area
  • Troubling swallowing or speaking
  • Any lump or mass in the neck
  • Enlarged tonsils

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Schedule your oral cancer screening at City Dental with Dr.Bajuscak, your premiere dentist in Portland, today by calling 503-277-2883 or by clicking here.

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