Combating Oral Cancer via Healthier Habits and Early Detection

As we expand our awareness of well-known diseases and cancers that plague overall health, it’s imperative that a strict emphasis is stressed upon the the main passageway into our bodies, the mouth. While it’s often times regarded as a part of the body only relevant to facial aesthetics and minor infections, oral cancer is a prevalent cancer that is lethal and requires well deserved attention.

Oral cancer disease can affect the entire mouth region, including the throat, lips, cheeks, and tongue. In the United States alone, around 46,000 people are projected to be diagnosed with oral cancer. This is equivalent to over 120 new Americans on a daily basis. In terms of the fatalities linked to oral cancer, around 8650 deaths are projected, which equates into a startling death per hour. The most disturbing figure attached to oral cancer however, is the survival rate of its victims seen in a 5 year span in which only around half of diagnosed patients survive. The main factor associated with this incredibly low survival rate pertains to its notoriously late diagnosis. As a matter of fact, when detected in a timely manner, survival rates in a 5 year period shoot up to 80-90%.

The following categorical attributes are deemed as the most common risk factors associated with oral cancer:

·      Human papillomavirus (HPV)

·      Tobacco

·      Diet

·      Age

·      Family History

·      Cigarette or cigar smoking

·      Excessive alcohol use

·      Too much sun exposure to the lips area

While family history and being over the age of 40 are factors that yield a significantly higher probability of suffering from oral cancer, it’s important to note the risk factors over which we have control. Many steps can be taken to reduce these risks. This includes a well-balanced diet with adequate fruits and vegetables, avoiding excessive alcohol use, tobacco products, and smoke. The other key is awareness of symptoms such as the following:

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Awareness of symptoms is a precursor to early detection, a key aspect for increased survival rates. Providing those with disparities in regards to these factors with regular dental checkups, knowledge of symptoms, and screenings can go a long way towards overcoming the potential lethality associated with oral cancer. 

One of the goals of MedEQ is to raise awareness of this inattention to oral health and provide information to break down the barriers that stop these people from taking care of their oral health. Overcoming oral health disparities in Detroit will go a long way towards overall health improvement in the Detroit area. Listed below are some of the initiatives we are pursuing in order to combat this prevalent issue:

Visiting schools to provide preventive services (Screenings, fluoride, sealants).

Assist in programs that provide free dental services, including transportation assistance.

Hand out dental care packages to the needy.

Oral care presentations, with ultimate goal of presenting to 1000 Detroit area students.

If you are interested in this cause, drop a comment below or bring it up at our meeting this Thursday from 3-4 P.M. in Ballroom AB of the Student Center!


References:

"Oral Cancer: Causes and Symptoms & The Oral Cancer Exam." Oral Cancer: Causes and Symptoms & The Oral Cancer Exam. Web <http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/OralCancer/AfricanAmericanMen/CausesSymptoms.htm>.

"Oral Cancer Facts." - The Oral Cancer Foundation. Web. <http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/>.

"What Is Mouth Cancer - Mouth Cancer Action Month." Mouth Cancer Action. 14 Mar. 2014. Web. <http://www.mouthcancer.org/what-is-mouth-cancer/>.

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