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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and this Melbourne, Florida dental practice is celebrating by educating our patients on facts of oral cancer. This time every year, we strive to teach patients about this disease and how it can be treated with timely identification. Oral cancer screenings are the most important part of our message every April. These screenings are non-invasive and can be performed at every dental check up. If you haven’t been to visit your dentist yet this year, ask for an oral cancer screening when you schedule your appointment. You’ll be happy you did.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is a common cancer that affects the tissues and structures of the oral cavity and throat. What causes this type of cancer is not clear, however; it is clear that it affects nearly 40,000 Americans every year. And, of those diagnosed, one in five people will be claimed by the disease causing 9,750 deaths. This disease is difficult to diagnose and as such, is difficult to treat which accounts for its relatively high mortality rate. Thankfully oral cancer screenings are becoming a normal and regular practice in dental offices across the nation. This is allowing dentists to detect signs of oral cancer and work with oncologists to treat patients before their cancer develops into a fatal, inoperable condition.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

It is unclear what exactly causes oral cancer. Like all cancers, it’s root cause is damage done to DNA. Once the DNA of oral tissues becomes damaged, it has the potential to continue to replicate and cause the condition known as cancer. Genetics and lifestyle are known contributors to the development of cancer, however at this time scientists cannot point to a specific cause. There are a few risk factors that have proven to damage DNA and cause cancer in some patients. Things like consuming tobacco products and excessive amounts of alcohol used to be the primary cause of many cases of oral cancer. Known carcinogens in tobacco products, this includes cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and even e-cigarettes, damage DNA in the mouth and can lead to the development of oral cancer. Oral cancer used to be a disease that namely affected older smokers, however a new demographic is experiencing this diagnosis more than ever – young, non-smokers. The cause for this shift in demographic is a very common virus known as HPV16. HPV, short for Human Papillomavirus, is a common virus that 95 percent of the population has or has come in contact with during their lifetime. In some this resolves itself soon and causes no harm, for others it can develop into cancer. Because this virus is so common, it is more important now than ever to be regularly screened for oral cancer.

What is an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer screenings are examinations that take place at your Melbourne, Florida Dentist’s office. During a routine exam, Dr. Brazdo will look for the signs and symptoms of oral cancer in order to ensure her patients are in good oral health. Oral cancer is rather hard to detect on your own because the symptoms often mimic rather common oral maladies. Sores, puffy and bleeding gums, pain when swallowing, and discoloration of oral tissues are common signs of oral cancer, however if any of these symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is imperative to contact your Melbourne, Florida dentist as soon as possible. While she is examining your mouth during your oral cancer screening, Dr. Brazdo will be looking for:

  • Puffy, bleeding gums
  • Discoloration or thickening of the gums, cheeks and all oral tissues
  • Sores that developed on the lips, tongue or cheeks
  • The lymph nodes in your throat

If she suspects cancer has developed or is developing she will alert you right away to ensure that you seek the best medical care possible during this life-altering time.

Oral cancer screenings are one of the most important things you can do for your oral health. If you are at risk of developing cancer – if you are a smoker, spend a lot of time in the sun without SPF lip-balm, or have family members who have been diagnosed with oral cancer in the past, make sure to ask your dentist about oral cancer screening today. Even if you don’t think oral cancer could be a problem for you, ask for a screening at your next appointment, early detection leads to early treatment.