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April is Oral Cancer Awareness month, raising awareness on facial protection and the importance of oral cancer screenings. This year an estimated 51,550 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed in the United States. Of those individuals – 40% will not survive longer than five years and many who do survive will suffer with long-term problems such as facial disfigurement or difficulties with eating and speaking. The death rate remains particularly high because the cancers are discovered late in their development.


Historically, those at an especially high risk for oral cancer have been heavy drinkers and smokers older than 50 years old, but today the cancer has become more prevalent in younger individuals due to HPV.

Other risks factors include:

  • Diets rich in red meat, fried, and processed foods
  • Prior radiation treatment, radiotherapy in the head or neck or both
  • UV exposure on the lips from the sun, sunlamps, or sunbeams
  • Gastro-esophagael reflux (GERD) – digestive condition where acid from the stomach leaks back up to the gullet
  • Existing HPV infection
  • Chemical exposure- especially to asbestos, sulfuric acids, and formaldehyde


  • Sores and ulcerations that do not heal after 14 days
  • Red white or black discoloration in the mouth
  • A abnormality that bleeds easily
  • A lump or hard spot in the tissue- usually on the border of the tongueA sore under the denture that does not healLoose teeth
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • A painless, firm fixated Lump on the outside of the neck that has persisted for at least two weeks

Having any of these symptoms does not mean that a person has mouth cancer, but it is worth checking with a doctor.

For those who have never had an oral cancer examination, there is no better time to schedule one than during Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April. Your mouth is one of your body most important early warning systems, don’t ignore suspicious lumps or soreness that lasts more than two weeks.

Should you discover something suspicious, make an appointment for a prompt examination. Early treatment may be the key to a complete recovery.