Understanding Oral Cancer: Why It Matters


April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and there are important reasons why you should care. Despite advances in healthcare, oral cancer will affect approximately 58,500 people in the U.S. in 2024, and most cases are diagnosed at stages 3 and 4. This is because oral cancer may not show noticeable symptoms in its early stages, and individuals may not seek medical attention until the cancer has progressed. Understanding oral cancer and early detection is critical to successful treatment.

Are You at Risk?

Although smoking and tobacco are major risk factors, oral cancer can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. Beyond smoking, oral cancer is on the rise due to various factors, such as increased alcohol consumption, U.V. radiation exposure, family history, the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, and changes in lifestyle and diet. The increase in HPV infections has particularly contributed to a concerning trend of rising oral cancer cases among younger adults. Therefore, it is essential that every individual maintain twice annual visits to the dentist, including a yearly screening for oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

While there are many symptoms of oral cancer, it is not always visible to the eye, which is the reason why it is often diagnosed in its later stages. Some of the visual and physical symptoms may include:

  • Mouth sores or mouth ulcers
  • Persistent mouth or ear pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Continuous hoarseness (throat cancer)
  • Unusual patches or growths

If these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, it’s essential to seek evaluation from a healthcare professional.

Early Detection is Critical to Survival

Take ownership of your oral health and stay vigilant for any changes or abnormalities in your mouth.

  1. Maintain a daily 2 x 2 habit: Brush twice daily for two minutes to remove cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth. Floss once in the evening to remove food particles from between teeth.
  2. Visit your dentist twice per year for a cleaning, checkup, and X-rays that show the health of your mouth below the gumline.
  3. Once per year, include the Oral I.D. screening for oral cancer during your appointment. This pain-free, non-invasive device looks similar to a mini flashlight. It uses unique technology to highlight any unusual spots in the mouth.
  4. Embrace lifestyle changes to reduce risk, such as quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake, and adopting a sun-safe approach to outdoor activities to protect your lips from U.V. exposure.

The 5-year survival rate for oral cancer in the United States is about 68%. Still, these statistics can be dramatically improved by proactively caring for your mouth and diligently contacting the dentist with any concerns. Empowerment is vital to treating and surviving oral cancer. Don’t let neglect undermine your well-being.

Contact us today at (281) 265-3567 or schedule an online appointment to keep your mouth healthy and teeth strong for the long run.

Dr. Dragana Angelova
Imperial Dental Center
“We love to see you smile”