How Covid-19 affects early detection for oral cancer!

human anatomy figure below white wooden ceiling

The effect oral cancer has on your throat.

When you hear the words oral cancer a lot of people get triggered or freeze up like they’re presenting a speech and whoops their pants fall down.  This is an understandable response as many of us have lost friends & family to cancer.  In this blog, we will raise awareness of the growing oral cancer cases that have resulted from the COVID-19 lockdowns and everything you’ll ever need to know about the disease including how to detect it.

Lets’s dive right into the most up to date Information, statistics, recommendations, and Instructions related to oral cancer:

Impact of COVID-19 on Oral Cancer

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation of oral cancer due to disrupting dental practices and keeping reopening capacities low.  With a focus on urgent treatments, exams have commonly been pushed back and symptoms of oral cancer get overlooked.  Referrals for oral cancer fell by 65% which suggests that tens of thousands of patients are undiagnosed with oral cancer.  We also saw a rise in the behaviors that are risk factors for oral cancer (smoking & drinking) which may lead to a spike in oral cancer cases in the following years.  It’s Important to be aware of oral cancer and the symptoms and schedule a dentist appointment to seek help before It’s too late.

Oral Cancer Risks, Symptoms, Self-Examination, and Prevention!

Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in your mouth that won’t go away with 70% of the cases being men.  As detection can be difficult and can get overlooked It’s very important to have regular dental checkups as It can manifest in hard-to-notice areas like mouth lining, lymph nodes, tonsils, and the base of your tongue.  Some symptoms that can signal a problem include long-lasting mouth or lip sores, white or red patches on your gums, tongue, tonsils, or bleeding in your mouth, dramatic weight loss, unexplained numbness of the mouth or neck, hoarseness, and feeling like something’s caught in your throat.

Attending the dentist regularly is crucial for young and older adults as screening for oral cancer is typical in most dental exams.  Although this form of the disease takes years to develop young adults need to be diligent as the cases of oral cancer are on a drastic rise.  It’s also possible that you can get oral cancer even without smoking or drinking.  Other risk factors can include genetics, a weakened immune system, HPV Infection, age, poor diet, and gender (men are at greater risk).  It’s critical to constantly monitor for this disease because there are no prevention methods.

You can combat the risk factors of oral cancer by getting the HPV vaccine (also practicing safe sex),  eating more fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol, over-exposure to the sun on your lips, and quitting smoking.  According to the Ontario Dental Hygienist Association (ODHA), It’s recommended that you examine your own mouth for oral cancer following this guide on a monthly basis.  If you think you may already have oral cancer and are in extreme pain our dental clinic in London Ontario has emergency dentist slots to fit you in.  

What happens when oral cancer is NOT caught early?

The Dental Defense Society recently released new Information pertaining to how Covid-19 impacted oral cancer detection.  The pandemic caused oral cancer referrals to decline as dental practices became disrupted.  This directly impacted the ability of Dentists to detect oral cancer early on and many patients may not catch it until It presents in a later stage of the disease.

Catching Oral Cancer cases in the later stages will result in complex treatments that’ll impact the patient’s mental health and quality of life.  If oral cancer spreads to nearby tissues, organs, or lymph nodes the 5-year survival rate is only 65% which is not good at all.  Whereas catching oral cancer in the early stages of the disease raises the 5-year survival rate by 50-90% to an expected 84% chance of surviving oral cancer.

How are oral cancer cases diagnosed and treated?  

The oral cancer screening exam is meant to be a regular part of your routine dental exam where your dentist will feel for any irregular tissue changes in your face, oral cavity neck, and head.  If an area looks suspicious your doctor will be able to determine which type of biopsy is best i.e. brush biopsy, incisional and excisional, even laser biopsies.

Oral cancer cases are treated just like any other type of cancer; surgery to remove the cancerous growth followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy to destroy the remaining cancer cells.

How Sbenati Dentistry is here to support you!

Sbenati Dentistry places  the rise in cases of oral cancer as a huge concern, we are playing the role of Improving patient outcomes by providing:

  • In-depth oral examinations during every routine check-up and treatment
  • Patient education to raise awareness of oral cancer signals, risk factors and make this and other dental information accessible
  • Letting you know how you can self-examine your mouth for oral cancer consistently and provide support
  • We’ll urgently refer our patients accordingly if we suspect you may have developed oral cancer
  • An amazing collection of preventative services and top-of-the-line technology to aid in the detection of any dental issue

Conclusion (Know the risk factors to prevent oral cancer)!

Although oral cancer cannot be prevented, you can certainly reduce your susceptibility.  All you need is a disciplined mindset dedicated to recognizing the signs and symptoms while having the proper knowledge to reduce the risk factors.

There is a strong correlation between the COVID-19 lockdowns and the growing number of oral cancer cases.  If you’d like to get checked for oral cancer today contact our dental clinic in London Ontario through our online Request An Appointment form, email us at [email protected], or give us a call at (519)-474-0220 we’d love to meet you.

If you enjoyed this article check out our blog on how cannabis can affect your mouth:

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