While smoking and tobacco use continue to be major risk factors for oral cancer, young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals comprise the disease’s fastest growing segment of patients due to its connection to the HPV virus.
About 48,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, and of those individuals only slightly more than half will be alive in five years. Historically the death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high not because it is difficult to diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.
“Lack of awareness appears to be a key reason for late diagnosis,” said Jaisri Thoppay, D.D.S., assistant professor of oral medicine and orofacial pain in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry.
Thoppay will answer questions about oral cancer during a VCU Health Twitter chat on April 6 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to sign into their Twitter accounts and join the conversation to have their questions about the disease answered. Just remember to use the hashtag #VCUHealthChat when posting questions and comments.
Questions can be submitted in advance via Twitter using #VCUHealthChat and @VCUHealth on Twitter.
In recognition of April being Oral Cancer Awareness Month, VCU Dental Care will host a free oral, head and neck cancer screening event on April 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lyons Dental Building, 520 N. 12th St. During the screening, which is open to the public, VCU School of Dentistry students and faculty will collect key medical and social histories that target predisposing conditions for oral, head and neck cancers. A thorough head and neck exam will also be provided.
“We will look for any suspicious lesions and address any questions that the patient may have regarding oral cancer,” Thoppay said. “Early diagnosis is the key to better prognosis and it should not be missed just because the person was unaware.”