Missourians With Cancers of the Oral Cavity or Pharynx Rank Above National Average

According to the American Cancer Society, 1,030 new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer will be diagnosed in Missouri in 2017. The incidence of these types of cancers is currently higher than the national average, as outlined in the 2015 Missouri Oral Health Plan, a five-year strategy for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, created in partnership with the Oral Health State Plan Taskforce. 

Ellis Dental Oral Cancer Screening

Ellis Dental Oral Cancer Screening

A goal of the task force is to lower the incidence of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx among Missouri residents from 11.1 per 100,000 population to the current national average of 10.8 by 2020. Annual dental exams have been identified as one of the most effective ways to find these types of cancers and pre-cancers in their early stages. To encourage people to get screened for early signs and symptoms, April has been designated as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. 

“Screenings for oral cancers or pre-cancer conditions are part of every routine dental exam in our practice,” Holly Ellis, owner of Ellis Dental said. “The procedure is quick and painless, taking less than two minutes but is vitally important to both the oral and overall general health of our patients.”

In addition to semi-annual screenings, Ellis recommends patients be mindful of any symptoms they are experiencing which could indicate an issue. Possible signs and symptoms of these cancers, according to Ellis and the American Cancer Society include: 

  • A sore in the mouth that does not heal (most common symptom)
  • Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away (also very common)
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat that doesn’t go away
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Loosening of the teeth or pain around the teeth or jaw
  • Voice changes
  • A lump or mass in the neck
  • Weight loss
  • Constant bad breath

Close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, and only slightly more than half will be alive in five years due to a high incidence of cancer recurrence. This is a statistic which has not significantly improved in decades. “Oral cancers can be tricky and may not produce symptoms until they are advanced,” Ellis said. “Your dentist can be an invaluable resource in their detection. At Ellis Dental we're also able to offer guidance as to next steps if we do notice something.”