Prevention and early detection of oral cancer

Myths:

I cannot get oral cancer because I don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Oral cancer is a rare disease so my chances of getting it are very small.

Oral cancer is for older people. I am young so I do not need to worry about it now.

If I should be diagnosed with oral cancer, it will be easily treated and I will be cured.

Truth:

Oral cancer is a very common disease affecting over 48,300 people in the United States alone, and this number continues to grow exponentially. Every 60 minutes of every day, someone in the U.S. dies from oral cancer. It is becoming an out-of-control epidemic.

The biggest concern is that two-thirds of all oral cancers are detected at a late stage of the disease, making the average survival rate 50 percent at five years. This overall oral cancer survival rate is worse than almost all cancers that are commonly known.

The goal is to prevent oral cancer. First step starts with obtaining your HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is FDA  approved and recommended by both the CDC and ACIP guidelines and approved by insurance for those under 45. You also want to detect early cancer changes in the head, neck and inside of the mouth. This is accomplished through routine oral cancer screening by a dentist for everyone 16 years and older, teeth or no teeth. The earlier oral cancer is detected, the better the chances for limited surgery intervention and a much longer survival rate.

The most important change in recent years is the link between oral cancers and the sexually transmitted human papillomanvirus (HPV). The incidences of oral cancers at the age of 30 or younger have spiked due to the spread of HPV. If a person has never used tobacco nor had a drink of alcohol, the risk of oral cancer is still high if they have had repeated exposure to HPV. There is an increased risk for those that are sexually active as well as those in the LGBTQ community. 

Summary:

Prevention and early detection of oral cancer is the key to reducing invasive surgical procedures and extending survival rates. Early detection is accomplished through routine oral cancer screenings for everyone, beginning at age 16 and continuing throughout the life of the patient. Risk factors still remain from excessive tobacco use or alcohol consumption, although HPV is an explosively growing risk factor for oral cancer. HPV, in the absence of other risk factors, can lead to oral cancer. 

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