Oral Cancer Myth Busting -- What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. At First Choice Dental, our commitment to your complete health includes free oral cancer screenings, whether you’re a patient or not.

There are a lot of misconceptions about oral cancer and oral cancer screenings. Let’s bust those myths and help you get the information and care you need to stay healthy. Here are some of the most common myths about oral cancer and the truth about each one, which may surprise you.

Common Myths About Oral Cancer
Myth 1: Oral cancer is not that common.
The truth is, oral cancer is diagnosed in people of all ages and strikes three times as many victims as cervical cancer. Oral Cancer will be newly diagnosed in approximately 58,500 people in the U.S. this year alone according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. While some think this is a rare cancer, mouth cancers will be newly diagnosed in about 145 new individuals each day in the US alone, and a person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day. If you add the sub-category of laryngeal throat cancers, the rates of occurrence (about 12,000 additional new cases per year) and death are significantly higher. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth.

For more than a decade there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. Oral cancer is the largest group of those cancers which fall into the head and neck cancer category. Common names for it include such things as mouth cancer, tongue cancer, tonsil cancer, and throat cancer.

Myth 2: I don’t smoke or chew tobacco, so I’m not at risk for oral cancer.
Oral cancer has always been thought of as a “smoker’s disease” but this isn’t the whole truth. At one time oral cancer was predominantly seen among male smokers and tobacco users. However, the fastest-growing population of oral cancer patients now are young, healthy, non-smoking individuals who are exposed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, and the primary precursor of cervical cancer. A small percentage of people (under 7%) do get oral cancers from no currently identified cause. It is currently believed that these are likely related to some genetic predisposition.

Myth 3: There’s nothing I can do to protect myself against oral cancer.
Take control of your health. Prevention is key. Oral cancer screenings are the key to early detection and saving lives. At First Choice Dental, we are committed to the overall health of our patients and the community, and that is why we offer free oral cancer screenings at all First Choice Dental offices.  It is an important step in helping to prevent oral cancer and improve the outcome of its diagnosis.

Myth 4: If I have oral cancer, I’ll know because I’ll have symptoms.
Oral cancer often progresses without pain or other symptoms until it’s in advanced stages. And since early detection is the key to survival, you can’t use your own judgment to know whether or not you have oral cancer or precancerous tissue in your mouth. First Choice Dental uses the most advanced screening technology available with the VELscope Vx device.  It allows dentists and hygienists to detect cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions and other abnormalities that might not be apparent to the naked eye.

Myth 5: Oral cancer screenings are uncomfortable, invasive and expensive.
Nope. At First Choice Dental, oral cancer screenings are painless, fast and free. We use the most advanced technology available, the Velscope Vx, which is a device that shines a light in your mouth to make abnormal tissue “fluoresce” even though it may not be visible to the naked eye. There’s no bad-tasting rinse, no pain, no discomfort. And the screening takes just a couple of minutes. And at First Choice Dental, because we’re committed to your overall complete health and want everyone to be screened, we offer oral cancer screenings free of charge to both patients and non-patients. Just give us a call and schedule an appointment.

Myth 6: There are no apparent signs for oral cancer that I should look for at home.
The American Dental Association recommends that patients monitor their oral health between dental visits. The Association says that it is important for patients to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and to see their dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.

  • 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 jaw or tongue
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Myth 7: It’s probably hard to get an appointment for an oral cancer screening.
Nothing could be easier than scheduling an oral cancer screening. To schedule a free oral cancer screening, contact a First Choice Dental location near you.  Visit www.firstchoicedental.com for a list of office locations. You do not have to be a current First Choice Dental patient to receive a free screening. Patients must be 18 or older.

For more information, schedule an appointment at www.firstchoicedental.com.