In our last blog post, I kicked off Newingham Dental Center’s month-long observation of Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
By now, you should have a firm grasp of the stakes when it comes to the lethality of this deadly disease: Over 48,000 news cases will be diagnosed in the United States by year’s end, and of those, 9,000 cases will result in the death of the patient.
Since most cases of oral cancer are detected late in the game, so to speak, and the average five-year survival rate following an oral cancer diagnosis is about 50% percent.
Think about that for a moment. According to that data, your chances of living through an oral cancer diagnosis is, on average, the same as flipping a coin. Those aren’t the kind of odds you should take into a casino, and they certainly aren’t the odds you deserve when it comes to your life.
So today, I want to talk about things you might be doing that are increasing your oral cancer risk to an alarming level.
Alcohol & Tobacco: Your Biggest Risks
If you’ve been alive for the last 60 years, then it should come as no surprise that regular use of tobacco has been scientifically proven to increase your risk of developing cancer, and oral cancer specifically.
The figures are troubling. Evidence shows that in certain selected populations, people who smoke face a 15-20 times greater chance than people who don’t smoke. That’s a pretty substantial increase in risk! And those numbers don’t even factor in other types of cancers, such as lung cancer.
Alcohol has been connected to increased chance of an oral cancer diagnosis, as well. Although the research isn’t as clear as it is with tobacco usage, it is currently thought that alcohol increases your risk of cancer because it dehydrates your mouth, making it easier for carcinogens to penetrate the soft tissues of your mouth, and it lowers your body’s immune system, as well.
It is also thought that a contributing factor of alcohol’s increased oral cancer risk is because people who drink heavily also tend to be regular users of tobacco. When combined, you are putting the health of your smile – and your entire body – in serious danger.
Quitting Is An Option
If you see any dentist in Michigan for an oral cancer screening the next time that you come in for a routine dental exam, then the chances are good that your dentist will address behavior treatment. This is a way of saying that no matter what, the biggest steps you can take – aside from getting an oral cancer screening – don’t happen in the dentist’s office. They happen at home, at work, anywhere you smoke or drink.
Obviously, it is much easier said than done, but when faced with all of the information about your risk for getting oral cancer and gambling with your own life, you should realize that your only good option is to make a commitment to change.
The good news is that, in the 12st Century, there is no shortage of cessation aids to curb your harmful habits. Of course, make sure to consult with your personal physician before making any major changes in your lifestyle.
Once you do, you should be able to rest a little easier at night knowing that you have given yourself one of the most precious gifts in the entire world: Better health. And there’s no price you can put on something like that.
Do Something Before It’s Too Late
As I’ve mentioned, the reason why oral cancer is so deadly is because people fail to catch it in time. It’s a combination of many things, including forgetfulness, being “too busy,” or simply not realizing what kind of a risk you face based on your lifestyle choices.
But the beauty of being alive is that we can make choices. And as long as we have the power to make those choice, we should endeavor to make the ones that are right for our happiness, for our family, and for our health.
You can achieve all three and more if you make a commitment to doing what you already know to be the best course of action.
To set up a dental exam and oral cancer screening, please call me at 248-972-8720, or you can request your appointment online by filling out this quick questionnaire.