Q. My friend was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 oral cancer. I thought only older men got this. How can I reduce my chances of developing an oral cancer?
A. While oral cancers are twice as common in men as women, anyone can develop this type of cancer. Approximately 35,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year. Tobacco use, both dipping and smoking, increases a person’s chance of an oral cancer, as does alcohol use. In recent years, researchers have found a correlation between HPV and increased risk of oral cancer. However, 25% of diagnosed cases have no known risk factors. The five-year survival rate of a Stage 4 oral cancer is 39%. The five-year survival rate of a Stage 1 oral cancer is 75%. It is very important for the primary oral lesion to be found early. Typically, an early oral lesion does not hurt, therefore, it often goes undiagnosed. People should be very aware of any new abnormality in their mouths. Your dentist should always examine the soft tissues in your mouth, including the back of the tongue. This is one of the most important reasons to follow the American Dental Association’s guidelines for a checkup every six months. New technologies available to dentists now can assist in finding cancerous lesions in their earliest state. Veloscope and Vizilite both use fluorescence to allow the dentist to see lesions before they could be seen by the naked eye.
Ellen Standefer McOmie, D.M.D.
McOmie Family Dentistry
5999 Shallowford Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421