Tag Archives: oral cancer screening

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness MonthOral Cancer and Baseball

It’s April!! And, anyone who is a sports fan knows what that means, Major League Baseball is back!! But, did you know April is also Oral Cancer Awareness Month?  And, since baseball and tobacco have such a synonymous relationship, raising awareness of oral cancer during April makes sense.

Baseball and Tobacco

The longtime relationship between baseball and tobacco started in the 19th century, when both tobacco and baseball became wildly popular. Players chewed tobacco because they found it kept their mouths moist on the dry dusty fields and the tobacco spit helped soften the leather of their gloves. And, players have been tucking tobacco between their gums and cheeks ever since. It’s a ritual that has long permeated the game, and a dangerous one at that.

This dangerous ritual has definitely had some devastating effects on some of baseball’s greatest players. The Sultan of Swat, the Great Bambino, and one the greatest baseball players in history, Babe Ruth, died at age 53 of throat cancer, after decades of dipping and chewing. Bill Tuttle, American League outfielder, died after a 5 year battle with oral cancer. Before his death, Tuttle waged a campaign against the use of chewing tobacco after the cancer left him disfigured. Brett Butler, former Major League center fielder, became a passionate advocate against tobacco after he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 1996. Former Major League pitching great, Curt Schilling attributed his oral cancer to three decades of chewing tobacco. And, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54, after a lengthy fight with salivary gland cancer. Gwynn attributed his cancer to longtime smokeless tobacco use.

Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Cancer

Smokeless tobacco contains 28 carcinogens and there is a definitive link between the use of tobacco products and the development of oral cancer. According to Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 49,750 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth.

One of the most troubling aspects of the disease is the survival rate. The survival rate of oral cancers are much lower than that of more well-known cancers, like breast or cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A major reason for those discouraging odds is that oral cancer generally isn’t found until it has reached a later stage of development. As a result, it’s harder to treat successfully. Therefore, early diagnosis of oral cancer is very important — and why it’s vital to become aware of possible warning signs of the disease.

Warning signs of oral cancers include:

  • A sore that won’t heal
  • White, red, or off-color patches
  • An unexplained lump
  • Prolonged sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaw
  • A feeling of something in the throat
  • Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth

Fortunately, dentists are trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer, and Dr. Griffin can often identify possible signs of the disease in its initial stages. We perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental exams, but you can also come in for an examination any time you have a concern. The good news is that recent advances in diagnosing oral cancer offer the hope that more people will get appropriate, timely treatment for this potentially deadly disease.

If you have questions about oral cancer, please contact us by calling (972) 242-2155 for a consultation. Or, you can use the “Ask Dr. Griffin” form at the top of this page.

Watch Your Mouth! April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral Cancer AwarenessApril is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category. This includes cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth, the upper part of the throat (oropharynx), the tonsils, the base of tongue areas, and on the lips.

It is estimated that close to 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 9,575 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 48,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades.

While smoking and tobacco use are still major risk factors, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus, the same virus that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women. A small percentage of people (under 7 %) do get oral cancers from no currently identified cause. It is currently believed that these are likely related to some genetic predisposition.

The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64% due to the fact that the majority of oral cancers are found as late stage cancers. Late stage diagnosis is not occurring because most of these cancers are hard to discover, it is because of a lack of public awareness and the lack of patient compliance with regular dental visits. Regular dental visits can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily. Public awareness about this serious disease and its risk factors is crucial to saving lives, and dentists are in a unique position to perform head and neck exams and oral screenings every day that can help us identify abnormalities in the mouth at the earliest stage.

It is also important that you be aware of symptoms in between dental visits and to see Dr. Griffin if you have any of the following symptoms that do not disappear after two weeks:

  • a sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • red or white patches
  • pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • a lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

So, watch your mouth and should you discover something suspicious, call us at 972-242-2155 to make an appointment for an examination. Early detection is key and Dr. Griffin can be a first line of defense in identifying abnormalities in the mouth, which could be signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of your exam during your 6-month hygiene visits to our office. Please make sure to visit Dr. Griffin regularly, get checked, and stay a step ahead of oral cancer.

(Information gathered from the Oral Cancer Foundation and The American Cancer Society)