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Oral cancer awareness

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

A visit to the dentist doesn't generally make it on anyone's list of Top Ten Favorite Things to Do, but regular check ups are a key factor in maintaining your good health.
Besides the usual cleanings and fillings, your dentist will check for more serious problems, such as signs of oral cancer.
November is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a good time to decide to make that dental appointment.
According to the American Dental Association, almost 41,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and throat cancer this year. The five-year survival rate is only slightly more than 64 percent. However, if the cancer is found and treated early, treatment-related problems can be reduced.
Your dentist will visually inspect your mouth and palpate your jaw and neck during the cancer screening. Regular visits to the dentist make any changes more obvious to the health professional.
Between visits, you should be aware of the following symptoms, as outlined by the ADA:
• A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
• Red or white patches
• Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
• A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
• Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
According to the ADA, factors contributing to the development of mouth and throat cancers include smoking and drinking, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers over 50 are most at risk for oral cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, smokeless tobacco, in the form of chewing tobacco or snuff, has been found to contain at least 28 chemicals that cause cancer. Smokeless tobacco has been linked not only to oral cancer, but also esophageal and pancreatic cancers.
For more information call 1-800-4-CANCER. Ask your healthcare professional for help when you are ready to quit using tobacco products.