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Think you’re not at risk for oral cancer?

You might be surprised. Every year, 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and there are over 8,000 deaths each year from the disease. In the past decade, dentists have seen a considerable increase in the number of these cases in people under 30 who have no identifiable risk factors for developing the disease. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, a full 25 percent of cases have no risk factors (such as tobacco or alcohol use) for cancers of the mouth.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes unnoticed until it spreads, many of these young, low-risk patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, oral cancer can be cured. Early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit the dentist regularly, you are probably already receiving an oral cancer screening during your regular dental checkup and don’t even realize it. The dentist checks your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps or irregular tissue changes. The most frequent sites for oral cancer are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. The exam is quick and painless.

The next time you visit your dentist, ask about your oral cancer screening. If you haven’t visited the dentist recently, be sure to schedule an appointment so that he or she can check for problems before they cause pain or become harder to treat.

You can learn more about the warning signs and causes of oral cancer and what you can do to protect yourself in this article about oral cancer.

Source: Under 30? Check for Oral Cancer. Academy of General Dentistry (www.agd.org)
Last updated: April 2009

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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