One of the most misunderstood types of cancer is oral cancer. So many patients conclude that the use of nicotine solely causes this disease. However, this is not true. You may be shocked to hear that large populations are affected by this disease.
The oral cancer mortality rate is higher than that of cancers we frequently hear of, such as breast cancer and testicular cancer. If you broaden the definition of oral and oropharyngeal cancers to include laryngeal cancer, the number of patients diagnosed in the U.S. alone rises to nearly 54,000 people, which causes 13,500 deaths per year.
Why is it so lethal? There are a couple of reasons. It may be that oral cancer is usually found in its later developmental stages, most likely after the disease has already started to spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Even dentists have difficulty detecting cancer correctly because it has no exact appearance, and it is hard to identify.?
Correcting Myths with Facts
Oral cancer is the deadliest among all cancers since a lot of people are not aware of this disease. However, preventing imminent death is possible by correcting all misconceptions and telling the truth about oral cancer.
MYTH #1: The patient is young and healthy, so there should be no signs of oral cancer.
Fact: While the danger of oral cancer increases after the age of 50, not all forms of diseases are associated with age. Patients younger than 55 can be diagnosed with oral cancer due to a possible connection between cancer and the sexually transmitted types of human papillomavirus (HPV). A rising number of young people are becoming infected.
MYTH #2: Only smokers get oral cancer.
Fact: The use of cigarettes is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. However, drinking alcohol, even without smoking, can also be a threat. So even though the patient is a non-smoker, the chances to develop the disease are still high.
MYTH #3: Spotting the signs of oral cancer is easy.
Fact: HPV-related forms of oral cancer can manifest in areas that are difficult to notice, such as the lining of the mouth, tongue base, tonsils, and lymph nodes. Dentists should be mindful of signs that may signify a cause for concern, such as the following:
- An incurable swollen lump in the mouth or lip
- Abnormal bleeding in the mouth
- White and red spots on the lips and gums
- Trouble swallowing
More than 90 percent of general practitioners find these signs as benign. The American Cancer Society developed the ABCDE rule to help specialists identify usual indications:
- Asymmetry – one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half.
- Border – edges blend in and are irregular, ragged, notched, and blurred.
- Color – the color is not uniform throughout.
- Diameter – the spot is about a quarter of an inch. It is over six millimeters across. At times, however, it can be smaller than this.
- Evolution – There are changes in size, shape, and color.
There is a way to detect these signs better at the early stage. Certain devices that can help dentists perform a better job of detecting oral cancer symptoms are available in the market. However, these tools don’t give a diagnosis. Fluorescence visualization devices can show cancerous and precancerous lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye. In addition to that, they help dentists assess sufficient surgical margins at stage one, with more than an 84 percent survival rate for the patients. Goccles®, VELscope®, and Identafi® are examples of fluorescence visualization equipment.
Oral Cancer Awareness is a Must
As professionals in dental practice, part of our role is to educate our patients about oral cancer. We can do this by posting infographics on the walls of our practices and talking to our patients to debunk existing oral cancer myths.
Dentists are the first line of defense in the fight against oral cancer. This type of disease can’t be detected right away with common dental tools that are being used. Thankfully, there is a way to do an inexpensive and painless screening procedure to help find oral cancer in its earliest stage. Screening your patients can save their lives.
Reach out to a Friendly Benco Rep to know more about oral cancer screening equipment.