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As designated by the Oral Cancer Foundation, April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer is a terrible disease that affects tens of thousands of new people every year. Of them, only just more than half will be alive in 5 years. Knowing its risk factors and getting screened can save your life.

One of the greatest risk factors for developing oral cancer is tobacco use, unsurprisingly. Historically, three-fourths of people over 50 with oral cancer have also been tobacco users. Alcohol increases the risk, making people who use both up to 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who don’t.

An emerging risk, especially among younger people, is the presence of human papilloma virus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually-transmitted virus, that, while often not harmful, can cause cancers in some people. About 1% of those infected have a poor immune response to the HPV16 strain and can develop cancer. Other known risks, such as UV radiation, also exist, while others are still debated.

Death from oral cancer often is the result of late detection. That is why at Dental Arts of Frederick, we offer oral cancer screenings with our regular cleanings and exams. You can also ask for one if you have concerning symptoms, such as persistent soreness, unexplained bleeding, lumps, bumps, rough spots, unexplained loss of feeling or pain, or other changes. Early detection is the key to effective treatment.

Oral cancer is serious, but it can be beaten with proper care. For up-to-date information about oral cancer, visit the OCF’s website at www.oralcancer.org. If you have experienced symptoms or would like to talk with Dr. Kevin Oakes about other oral health issues, call our Frederick, MD, office today.