Oral cancer, the sixth most common cancer, accounts for almost 4 percent of all cancers diagnosed, with more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer reported annually in the United States. The vast majority of oral cancers occur in people older than 45 years, with men being twice as likely as women to develop the disease. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement, and even death. Oral cancer accounts for roughly 8,000 deaths annually (about 3 percent of all cancer-caused deaths). Because oral cancer is usually not diagnosed in its early stages, less than half of all oral cancer patients are cured. Of all major cancers, oral cancer has the worst five-year survival rate at about 57 percent. The good news is that if oral cancer is caught early enough, your chances for survival increase dramatically – from 57 percent to more than 80 percent. What’s the best way to catch it early? Be sure to visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations, which typically include an oral cancer screening in the form of a soft tissue exam.
An oral cancer exam is painless and quick — it takes only a few minutes. Your regular dental checkup is an excellent opportunity to have the exam. Here’s what to expect:
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