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Oral Cancer Facts

At Magnuson Dental Design we encourage everyone to have an oral cancer screening exam. We utilize the most advanced technology to catch any abnormalities in the the mouth as early as possible. Below are some facts regarding oral cancer that everyone should be aware of. If you would like to speak with a staff member about an oral cancer screening exam please call us (269) 290-7275.

  • More than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year (Squamous cell carcinoma). It will cause over 8,000 deaths
  • The death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development
  • In its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently grow without producing pain or symptoms
  • 75 % of these cancers are related to alcohol and tobacco use
  • Smoking and drinking promote the invasion of HPV
  • Alcohol prohibits the production of p53 protein that normally protects the cell
  • Carcinogens in tobacco damage cell DNA
  • Oral cancer had been a man’s disease 6 to 1; now 2 to 1 (Oral Cancer foundation) Women are smoking and drinking more.
  • Alcohol and tobacco are responsible for most oral cancers. However, doctors have noticed an increase of oral cancer in patients with little or no history of smoking or drinking.
  • 25 % Patients diagnosed with oral cancer have no risk factors
  • Current research indicates that HPV positive disease is rapidly changing these ratios and age groups
  • HPV that causes cervical cancer is now being linked to oral cancer
  • At a cellular level the mouth is structurally very similar to the vagina and cervix.
  • Over 80 different types of HPV have been identified
  • Most HPV are very common, harmless, noncancerous and treatable, i.e. producing warts on the skin.
  • At any one time about 1/3 of 25 year olds in the US are infected.
  • 95% will get rid of the infection within one year.
  • There are other forms of HPV which are sexually transmitted. The common cancer-associated types are HPV-16 and Hpv-18.
  • Known to cause up to 95% of cervical cancer.
  • Linked to oral cancer
  • The virus thrives in a moist dark environment.
  • Like cervical cancer, in oral cancer, the virus is transferred thru sexual contact.
  • This type of cancer is increasing about 3 percent each year.
  • Younger, non smoking patients under the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population
  • Mothers harboring the virus can transmit the virus to their babies during birth.
  • HPV is the most prevalent STD in the US at present.
  • Being HPV positive does not mean that you will develop cancer.
  • Tobacco/alcohol lesions tend to favor the anterior tongue and mouth, and HPV positive lesions tend to favor the posterior oral cavity (tonsils and base of tongue)
  • CDC claims that 20 to 30 percent of head and neck cancers are related to HPV
  • When oral cancer is detected early, oral cancer patients have a 80-90% survival rate
  • A thorough oral, head and neck cancer examination can easily be completed in less than 5 minutes. It primarily consists of inspection and palpation. Multiple studies have consistently shown that the earliest manifestation of many oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell cancers is a persistent erythroplastic lesion. Must look for both red and white (leukoplakia) lesions on the oral mucosa, as well as detection through palpation of indurated and fixated masses within the tissues.
  • The lips may be involved with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the aerodigestive tract or both SCC and basal cell carcinomas (BCC) of the skin.
  • The inside of the cheek or buccal mucosa must be spread away from the teeth and gums to visualize the sulcus which connects this area to the gums (gingiva)
  • One of the most common sites of oral cancer is on the lateral aspect of the tongue. Also palpation of the dorsum and lateral margins of the tongue, looking for any masses or firm/fixated areas.
  • Floor of the mouth is the horseshoe-shaped area that extends from the alveolar ridge of the mandible to the ventral aspect of the tongue.
  • Palpate with a gloved finger beneath the tongue, and another under the chin on the exterior skin.
  • Check for red spots, white spots, ulcerations, rough areas, asymmetry, growths, or other masses on the hard and soft palate.
  • The oropharynx and tonsils viewed by depressing the back of the tongue.
  • Chemiluminescence may be used as an adjunct in the examination. Marketed under the names ViziLite Plus and MicroLux DL.
  • Patient first rinses with a 1% acetic acid solution followed by direct visual examination of the oral cavity using a blue-white light source.
  • The 1% acetic acid wash is used to help remove surface debris and increase the visibility of epithelial cell nuclei. Under blue-white illumination, normal epithelium appears lightly bluish while abnormal epithelium appears distinctly white.
  • Toluidine blue is a vital dye that stains abnormal tissues. It has been used for decades on suspicious areas as an aid to the identification of mucosal abnormalities of the cervix as well as in the oral cavity.
  • Excisional biopsy is the gold standard to diagnose suspicious areas that do not heal in two weeks. Most areas are benign or precancerous.
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