Three Myths About Oral Cancer — Busted
Oral cancer is a devastating disease that causes more than 9,000 deaths per year in the United States. Only about half of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. Yet, in spite of the prevalence and destructive nature of oral cancer, most people know very little about it. In fact, there are a lot of false myths floating around about oral cancer, which may prove dangerous if they prevent you from detecting the disease or getting the proper treatment. Here’s a look at three of these myths – and the real truth about this form of cancer.
Myth: Only smokers get oral cancer.
It’s true that smokers are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers. But avoiding smoking does not make you impervious to oral cancer. Only 80% of oral cancer patients are smokers – which means 1 out of 5 oral cancer sufferers don’t smoke. Everyone should be on the lookout for signs of oral cancer – but those who are over the age of 55, those who drink heavily, and those who work outdoors should be especially vigilant, since these are other common risk factors for the condition.
Myth: You can check yourself for oral cancer by looking for spots in your mouth.
The presence of leukoplakia, or white spots in the mouth, can be a sign of oral cancer. If you have these spots, you should certainly get checked out by a doctor or dentist. However, there are many patients whose oral cancer symptoms are less noticeable. Your only sign might be a little rough patch deep in your throat where you can’t see it, a bump your tonsils, or a spot on your gums that looks a little red. It’s far too easy to overlook subtle symptoms like this yourself, so it’s absolutely essential that you visit your dentist regularly. He or she will look over your mouth and screen you for oral cancer as a part of your regular dental checkup if you ask.
Myth: If you have a family history of oral cancer, you’ll probably get it, too.
People with a family history of oral cancer are at a slightly higher risk of developing oral cancer than those with no family history of the disease. But by no means are you doomed to oral cancer just because your mother or grandfather had it. There are still many ways to protect yourself:
- Limit your alcohol intake (heavy drinkers are prone to oral cancer)
- Use a lip balm with SPF when you spend time in the sun
- Avoid chewing tobacco as well as smoking
- Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies
If you have any further questions about oral cancer, speak with your dentist or visit a site like http://www.westlakesfamilydental.com.