Oral Cancer Myths Busted! What You Really Need to Know

By: Dr. Andrew Koenigsberg

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month! It’s a perfect time to clear up some confusing myths about this serious disease. Even with modern medicine, many misunderstandings about oral cancer still exist. This can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

This blog busts the top myths surrounding oral cancer and sheds light on the truth. By understanding your risk factors and early signs, you can take charge of your oral health. Most importantly, regular dental check-ups are your best defence against oral cancer.

Myth Busting:

  1. Myth: Only Older People Get Oral Cancer
    • Truth: While age is a risk factor, oral cancer can strike anyone, including young adults and even teenagers. The average age of people diagnosed with oral cancers is 64, but they can occur in young people. Just over 20% (1 in 5) of cases occur in people younger than 55. Stay aware and get regular checkups, no matter your age.
  2. Myth: Smokeless Tobacco is Safe
    • Truth: Don’t be fooled! Chewing tobacco and snuff are major risk factors for oral cancer. Chewing tobacco and snuff can cause cancer in the cheek, gums, and lips. Cancer often occurs where the tobacco is held in the mouth.
  3. Myth: Only Smokers Get Oral Cancer
    • Truth: Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers compared to non-smokers. But even non-smokers can develop oral cancer. The location of oral cancers differs in smokers and non-smokers, with non-smokers having a higher proportion of cancers occurring on the edge of the tongue.
  4. Myth: Oral Cancer is Rare
    • Truth: Oral cancer is more common than you might think. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is about 1 in 59 for men and 1 in 139 for women. Early detection is key, so be mindful of symptoms like persistent mouth sores, swallowing problems, or voice changes.
  5. Myth: I Don’t Drink Alcohol, So I’m Safe
    • Truth: Heavy alcohol use is a risk factor, but even moderate drinking can contribute. Alcohol abuse (defined as more than 21 standard drinks in one week) is the second-largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer. People who drink and smoke have an elevated risk.
  6. Myth: Oral Cancer Doesn’t Affect Women
    • Truth: This disease affects both men and women. While smoking and drinking historically put men at higher risk, the rate among women is rising. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is about 1 in 59 for men and 1 in 139 for women. Everyone needs to be proactive about oral health.

Regular Oral Examination

Early cancer often does not cause pain but can be seen by dental professionals. Examination by a dentist or hygienist often detects oral cancer before the patient has any symptoms.

Empowering You for Better Oral Health:

By debunking these myths, we want to empower you to take charge of your oral health. Regular dental visits, knowing your risk factors, and making healthy lifestyle choices can significantly reduce your risk. Seeing your dentist regularly allows for early detection, which is critical for successful treatment.

Let’s Spread Awareness This Month:

This Oral Cancer Awareness Month, let’s spread knowledge and encourage early detection. Together, we can build healthier smiles and lives. Remember, knowledge is power in the fight against oral cancer. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and stay healthy!

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