CDA recommends oral cancer screening

As part of Oral Cancer Awareness Month this month, the California Dental Association (CDA) is recommending regular dental checkups for oral cancer screening.

Dental professionals can act as a first line of defense in the early detection of oral cancer, the CDA emphasized in a press release.

Oral cancer often goes unnoticed until it has spread to other parts of the body, noted CDA President Lindsey Robinson, DDS, and dentists can identify early signs of oral cancer. Regular dental checkups, which include an oral cancer screening, are essential in the detection of cancerous and precancerous conditions, she said.

Oral cancer can present in a number of areas in the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, cheek lining, tongue, and the hard or soft palate. Oral cancer often starts as a small white or red spot or sore somewhere in the mouth or on the lips. When found early, oral cancer patients have an 80% to 90% survival rate, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 42,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year and most will be caused by tobacco use. While tobacco and alcohol use are known risk factors for oral cancer, a lesser known risk factor includes exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) -- the same virus responsible for the majority of cervical cancers in women.

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