Each year, we raise awareness about oral cancer during the month of April by sharing an update about this life-threatening disease, but we are diligently on the lookout for it all year long.
Once thought to be a cancer that only affected tobacco users, oral cancer has been linked to the HPV16 virus which also causes cervical cancers. According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transferred infection in the U.S. and between 50-80 % of the entire US population will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. (www.oralcancer.org)
Oral cancer typically appears as something we might otherwise ignore – a bump, raised area or discoloration of the tissues in the mouth, or unexplained, persistent throat irritation or hoarseness.
As part of your dental examination visits with us, Dr. Booth and our Dental Hygienists will perform an oral cancer screening of the tongue and oral soft tissues. We may also use a special oral cancer detection system, Velscope®. This patented technology uses a combination of light detection and specially formulated staining solution to react to potentially cancerous cells. If we see a bump or lesion that looks questionable, the Velscope® system can help us rule out oral cancer or be an indicator that we need to take a closer look.
Both teens and adults are at risk for oral cancer. At home, pay attention to your tongue, cheeks and oral soft tissues when you brush and floss. A good rule of thumb, if you see a spot in your mouth that looks and feels different for more than 2 weeks, it is time to call us. Same rule applies if you have an unexplained persistent sore throat or hoarseness, give your physician a call. As with any form of cancer, early detection can be life saving!