As dental professionals, most of you probably know that this month is Oral Cancer Awareness month. However, do most of your patients know? It’s unfortunate that many people are unaware of just how dangerous oral cancer is. Over the last few years, oral cancer has been growing rapidly. Previously, oral cancer was associated with an older demographic and most commonly linked to alcohol and tobacco use. While these entities are still true, there has been an enormous increase of oral cancer rates in the younger demographic. Researchers are attributing these increased rates, in both men and women, to the rising incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV.) Based on data from the United States cancer registries, over 63% of oral cancer cases are now associated with the HPV infection. So, what does that mean for you as a clinician? It means that in today’s day and age, it’s more important now than ever before that you educate your patients about oral cancer.
The lack of public oral cancer awareness is astounding. The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) estimates that there are 115 new oral cancer cases diagnosed every day, with at least one death per hour each day attributed to the disease. The death rate of oral cancer is so high, not because it’s difficult to treat, but because it’s usually discovered late in its development. Early detection and treatment increases survival rate significantly. When you educate your patients on these statistics and encourage them to get a screening, you could be saving their life.
Here are a few easy ways to get involved with Oral Cancer Awareness month.
- Scheduled screenings.
- Offer free screenings during the month of April. Send out flyers or email blasts to patients letting them know they’ll receive a free screening with every standard cleaning or exam.
- Host an in-office event.
- Invite your patients and members of the community to the office for a “Free Oral Cancer Screening Day.” Block out a period of time during the week or on a day that you’re typically closed, and offer free screenings. Schedule appointments and welcome walk-ins.
- Visit a local school.
- Cases of oral cancer are being found in teens as young as 15 years old. Setup an event at your local middle or high school and offer a quick 30 minute educational course on the ins and outs of oral cancer.
Most importantly, start conversations with your patients about oral cancer, and keep them going all year long. Between patient education and regular oral cancer screenings, we can do our part in the fight against oral cancer. It starts with us!
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