SPRINGFIELD, NORTHAMPTON AND EAST LONGMEADOW, MASSACHUSETTS – April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. To raise awareness, the professionals at EMA Dental, a Springfield, MA extreme makeover and prosthodontic specialty office, explain the importance of getting oral cancer screenings.
These screenings are a regular part of dental appointments, so it is important for you to see your family dentist regularly. Typically, routine appointments are twice a year.
The Oral Cancer Foundation invites dentists to participate in Oral Cancer Awareness Month to stress the importance of early detection. This foundation is a non-profit organization designed to reduce suffering and save lives through prevention, education, research, advocacy and patient support activities, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation website.
“This type of cancer is the largest group among head and neck cancers,” says Dr. Vincent J. Mariano, an expert in prosthodontics.
Some common names for oral cancer include mouth cancer, tongue cancer, tonsil cancer and throat cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimated that 36,540 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2010, resulting in 7,880 deaths, according to the American Dental Association website.
“Screenings aid in early diagnosis, resulting in a higher chance of survival,” says Dr. Mariano, the Springfield MA Lumineers expert.
During the screening, the dentist will look for red or white patches or mouth sores. With gloved hands, your dentist will feel the tissues of your mouth for lumps or abnormalities. The presence of lumps and sores doesn’t necessarily mean you have oral cancer. Further testing will determine if any abnormalities are cancerous.
Typically, a thorough oral, head and neck examination is done in less than five minutes. We will talk you through the entire process to create a more comfortable environment. We will use this time to educate you about signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer and how to find it at an early stage.
Education and early detection are the keys to raising the survival rate of oral cancer. Take a mouth mirror and a light and inspect your mouth once a month. If you spot something suspicious, call your dentist.
“A biopsy is the only definite way to determine if you have oral cancer,” says Dr. Mariano. “The suspicious cells are removed and tested.”
High risk patients are more likely to benefit from oral cancer screenings. Different factors that put a patient at risk are:
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Excessive alcohol use
- History of oral cancer
Oral cancer is a preventable disease if caught early. To help prevent your risk of oral cancer, limit your consumption of alcohol, stop tobacco use, stay out of the sun, wear lip balm with SPF and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If by chance you are diagnosed with oral cancer, treatment may include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These different methods can be used alone or in combination to kill the cancer cells.
Oral cancer screenings are routine. It doesn’t mean your dentist thinks you have oral cancer if he/she suggests a screening. The goal is for you to live a healthy and happy life.
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