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Oral Cancer

August 10th, 2011

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were approximately 36,500 new cases and 7,800 deaths resulting from oral and pharyngeal (upper throat) cancer (OPC) in the United States in 2010.  More than 90 percent of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.  Dentistry is closely involved with promoting the prevention and early detection and treatment of OPC.
According to the American Cancer Society, one third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths that occur each year can be attributed to diet and physical activity habits.  So when you come in for your dental checkup, would you expect your regular examination to include a discussion about these areas?  You should, since your dentist and hygienist and their staff are interested in the prevention of disease as a primary goal.  The best treatment is to avoid the need for any treatment.  It seems that the same dietary recommendations that we make for tooth and gum health go for overall health as well.  A diet high in fruits, vegetables and plant based foods has been shown to help prevent many cancers, as well as restricting things such as sugary drinks and energy dense foods.
Along with diet, the need for regular exercise and weight control play an important role in health.  With proper care, the risk factors for cancer are lowered.  Of course, the need for regular examinations and oral cancer screening should also be a part of the routine.  Early detection of lesions has been shown to vastly improve the outcome of treatment.
Your regular examination in our office will include a visual examination of the tongue, floor of the mouth, and all parts of the mouth and upper throat.  Also, a manual exam of the loser jaw and floor of the mouth and throat will be done, feeling for any growths.  It’s another reason that you need to keep your regular appointments for recalls.
If at any time you notice a sore or ulcer in your mouth that hasn’t healed in a week or so, contact your dental office immediately.   The dentist will check the area and will take appropriate action which may include a brush biopsy or a referral to a specialist for more definitive diagnosis and treatment.

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