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Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Get Informed and Be Proactive

April marks Oral Cancer Awareness Month, an important time to educate ourselves about this often overlooked but serious health issue. Oral cancer affects thousands of individuals each year, but awareness and early detection can significantly improve outcomes. Dr. Fitzpatrick wanted to take this chance to help her patients understand what oral cancer is, how to recognize its signs, and what steps we can take to reduce your risk.

Understanding Oral Cancer

Oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in the mouth or throat tissues, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. While tobacco and alcohol use are well-known risk factors, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has increasingly become a cause of oral cancers, especially among younger individuals.

Signs and Symptoms

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer is crucial to an early diagnosis, so please look out for issues such as:

  • Persistent mouth sores or ulcers that do not heal

  • Red or white patches in the mouth

  • Lumps or thickening of the skin or lining inside the mouth

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw

  • Persistent sore throat or hoarseness

  • Numbness in the mouth or lips

Reducing Your Risk

While some risk factors like age and genetics are beyond our control, there are certain lifestyle choices that can increase our risk of developing oral cancer, such as:

  • Smoking and Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco use is a major risk factor for oral cancer. Quitting smoking and avoiding other tobacco products can significantly lower your risk.

  • High Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to oral cancer. Drink alcohol in moderation or better yet, try to avoid it altogether.

  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Avoiding brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can lead to many issues, one of which is oral cancer.  Visit your dentist for routine check-ups, professional cleanings and brush and floss at least twice a day.

  • HPV: People with human papillomavirus are more likely to get oral cancer. Vaccinations against HPV can reduce your risk, particularly in younger individuals.

  • Unhealthy Diet: A poor diet makes you more likely to get cancer so Dr. Fitz recommends eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and are packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants that may help reduce cancer risk.

Early Detection

Oral cancer is highly treatable when detected early, with cure rates reaching 80-90%. Therefore regular dental check-ups at your Petworth dentist are vital, as Dr. Fitzpatrick and her team are trained to spot early signs of oral cancer during routine exams. 

Get Involved

Join us in raising awareness and supporting the cause at the Oral Cancer Foundation 5K event at Wheaton National Park on Saturday, April 27th, 2024, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's an opportunity to come together as a community, promote awareness, and show support for those affected by oral cancer.

This Oral Cancer Awareness Month, let's prioritize our oral health and spread awareness about the importance of early detection. By staying informed, adopting healthy habits, and seeking timely medical attention for any concerning symptoms, we can reduce the impact of oral cancer on our lives and communities. Schedule your dental exam today and we hope to see you at the 5K event, standing together in the fight against oral cancer!


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