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April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Posted on April 1, 2014 | in Dental Care | by

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 43,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

The fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus. We cannot stop this virus from spreading; our only hope to save lives is with professional involvement and public awareness.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Dentists Are The First Line Of Defense In Oral Cancer Battle

A simple and painless test performed annually during our regular dental check-up can help identify potential warning signs of oral cancer. In addition to all of the laser-assisted tooth decay diagnoses, swishing, gargling, and tooth polishing, oral cancer screenings are now an important part of our regular dental exams and checkups.

Did you ever notice, we really don’t ‘spit‘ at the dentist anymore?

In between those twice annual dentist appointments, we can also do a little self-screening for potential warning signs.

Screen Yourself for Oral Cancer

We stand in front of the mirror every morning brushing, flossing, and whatever else we make it a daily hygiene habit of doing…taking a minute or two for a peek around the mouth and gums for some self-screening.

  • Examine yourself in the mirror. The left and right sides of the face and neck should have the same shape. Check for swelling, lumps and bumps.
  • Look at your skin and note any changes in the color or size of sores, moles or other growths.
  • Press your fingers along the sides and front of your neck. Do you feel any tenderness or swelling?
  • Pull your lower lip out and look for any sores. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel the upper and lower lips for lumps or texture changes.
  • Examine the insides of your cheeks for red, white or dark patches. Gently squeeze and roll each cheek between your index finger and thumb to check for bumps and tenderness.
  • Tilt your head back to check the roof of your mouth, and then run your finger along the surface. Do you feel or see any unusual lumps or discoloration?
  • Check out the top, bottom and sides of your tongue, including the soft tissue under it. Once again, note any swelling, discoloration or unusual lumps.

Basically look for anything you haven’t seen before, that doesn’t look normal. And if you have questions, whether by telephone, Twitter, or carrier pigeon, contact a dentist!

What Are The Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Although curable and preventable – as far as cancer goes – oral cancer can also be deadly. As dental patients we can learn the importance of prevention and early identification lessons from such higher-profile oral cancer experiences like the battle Michael Douglas endured, or maybe we watched this video of Katie Couric interviewing Blythe Danner about her husband’s fight with oral cancer.

Symptoms can include: sores on the face, neck or mouth that do not heal within a couple of weeks; swelling, lumps or bumps on the lips and gums; chronic bleeding in the mouth; white, red or dark patches in your lips, cheeks, gums or tongue; and numbness, loss of feeling or general pain in any area of the face, mouth or neck.

The American Cancer Society provides a complete guide to oral cancer here, some prevention tips include:

– Limiting tobacco and alcohol usage
– Limiting exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light
– Wearing properly fitted dentures
– Eating a healthy diet
– Avoiding HPV infection

Care To Share The Oral Cancer Awareness Month Message?

Grass roots viral spread of the idea is an inexpensive means to achieving our goals of reduce deaths from oral cancers through early discovery. A couple of simple facts such as; 100 new people in the US EVERY DAY will be newly diagnosed with an oral cancer, and that one person EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY, 24/7/365 will die from it will help people understand that it is not rare, and screening for it is as important as their cervical, prostate, breast and other exams cancer exams that are now so common to us all.

With the billions of web sites, and social networking entities like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. out there, will you help make this message go viral?

Oral Cancer Foundation

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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