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Oral Cancer Awareness Month is nearly halfway over, and Riverdale Oral Health and Implant Center wants to make sure that you get your screening. Remember, your dentist is your first line of defense against oral cancer.

The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) is encouraging a national screening campaign, in hopes of eliminating oral cancer. The OCF reports that approximately 43,250 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2015.

Many people seem to disregard this threat if they don’t smoke or use tobacco, since those behaviors are well known major risk factors for developing oral cancer. But surprisingly, the OCF reports that the fastest growing subset of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, non-smoking individuals who develop oral cancer as a result of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Remember, your dentist is your first line of defense against oral cancer.

A Quick Word or Two About HPV
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, the CDC reports that HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women contract it at some point in their lives, even those who practice monogamy.

The best approach to saving lives is through the process of early discovery, which is best achieved with professional involvement and public awareness.

Though the facts surrounding oral cancer can be alarming, don’t be discouraged: As suggested above, the American Dental Association reports that patients can be screened for oral and pharyngeal cancer during a regular dental visit, which is another good reason to visit your dentist every six months! The word “pharyngeal” relates to the pharynx, which is the region inside the mouth where passages of the nose connect to the mouth and throat.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research indicates that the stage at which an oral or pharyngeal cancer is diagnosed is critical to the course of the disease, and that it’s more easily treated if it’s detected at its earliest stage.

Oral Cancer: The Risk Factors
The most significant risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, HPV infection, age (the risk is greater after age 44), gender (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer), ultraviolet light exposure and nutrition (individuals whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruits have a lower incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancer).

Oral Cancer: The Signs and Symptoms
A few of the signs and symptoms associated with oral cancer are lumps or a thickening of the oral soft tissues, swelling that affects the comfort and fit of dentures, difficulty chewing or swallowing, difficulty with moving the jaw or tongue, a sore throat or a sensation that something is caught in the throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in the voice.

It’s Time for Your Exam!
The ADA reports that an estimated 1 in 92 adults will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in their lifetime. And the OCF states that every day 100 new people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and that one person dies from it every hour.

So, if it’s been a while since you and your family members have visited the dentist, come and see us this April, and help us spread the word about Oral Cancer Awareness Month!