Tenino Family Dental makes oral cancer screening it a routine part of your dental exams. Screening is the number one best way to catch oral cancer at an early stage. Could you be at risk?

Most of us are aware that tobacco and alcohol use are not the only causes or risks for developing oral cancer.  Studies show oral cancer is on the rise regardless of tobacco/alcohol use and it isn’t discriminating against anyone’s age, gender, or health.  In fact we are finding that the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease also known as HPV, contributes to approximately 40-80% of all US oral cancer cases.

HPV related oral cancer presents itself differently than the oral cancer related to tobacco and alcohol use and needs to be screened for differently due to the unseen elusiveness of the disease. Often the disease doesn’t show signs or symptoms until the very late stages of the disease which in turn can have lower survival rates.  Creating public awareness, prevention techniques, and knowing the risk factors are important keys to catching the cancer at early stages.

Symptoms of Oral Cancers:

  • Lump in throat
  • Lump or swelling in mouth
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent Sore Throat
  • Ulcer, lesion, or sore that doesn’t heal within 2-3weeks
  • Pain when chewing
  • Painless lump on outside of neck for more than 2 weeks
  • Numb feeling in mouth, throat, neck, or lips
  • Constant coughing
  • An ear ache on one side persisting for more that few days
  • Lesion that changes shape, size, color, or goes from non tender to tender

Risk Factors:

  • Having a compromised or weakened immune system, Immune system disorders, lichen planus. Inflammatory diseases of the mouth can increase the risk of development of HPV related oral cancer.
  • Having a diet lower in fruits and vegetables. Your immune system may not be properly supported with a poor diet.
  • Genetic predispositions such as inherited defects in genes that contribute to DNA repair.
  • Persons who have engaged in oral sex with multiple partners or with a partner who has had multiple partners.
  • Being male: HPV seems to affect more men than women 3 to 1.
  • Being between the ages of 25-50, but not limited to that group.
  • Having a history of a positive HPV test or a history of HPV cancers elsewhere in the body.

(These risk factors especially when in tandem with one another help identify those most at risk patients)

Transmission/Infection Process

Transmission of HPV occurs through skin to skin contact allowing the transfer between the epithelial cells/tissues contaminated with the virus. Once the virus transfer occurs the possibility of infection or development of the oral cancer depends on a person’s immune system response. HPV integrates its DNA into the host cells allowing it to reproduce quickly and in great numbers leading to uncontrolled reproduction of viral cells and possibly developing into oral cancer.

100% effective immune systems will fight off the infection before damage can be done.  That said someone who has acquired the virus may not have HPV related infection and or develop HPV related cancer, but he or she may have a latent form of the virus which could last decades.  Many will have had HPV and not even be aware that they have acquired it.  Often the immune system clears the infection before the person is symptomatic. Therefore you may be unaware that you have acquired HPV.

The best prevention possible is to know the risk factors for developing HPV, getting a semi-annual oral cancer screening from your dentist or doctor, and getting vaccinated.  There are two vaccines available called Gardasil and Cervarix both protecting against HPV 16.  The National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 and 12 as well as girls and women ages 13-26.  The gardasil vaccine has also been approved for use in boys and men 9 through 26 years old.  These vaccines are most effective if given to children before they become sexually active because vaccination at pre-sexual ages brings the most protection.

Get your oral screening today by making an appointment with your doctor or dentist and have a better feeling knowing you were proactive.  Talk to your dentist about their oral cancer screening protocol and see your physician about vaccination for yourself or your children.