Mar 25, 2014 7:38 PM by Annie Snead
Oral cancer awareness month is April.
But did you know, the majority of patients won't have any symptoms in the early stages.
That's why a local dentist I spoke with says it's important to have a screening exam done as part of your regular visit.
"There's a very high success rate with the treatment of early diagnosis of oral cancers. Once they've progressed significantly beyond the early stage, they have a very high mortality rate as well," said Dr. Fred Guerra with Guerra Dental in Colorado Springs.
Dr. Guerra says many patients may not have the opportunity to see a dermatologist or physician but they may see their dentist twice a year.
"It doesn't take a lot of time, it's not costly, and it should be one of the most important parts of your regular dental visits," he said.
"Often times we'll palpate the neck and behind the ears and the areas under the chin and ask about swelling and anything they've noticed with their head and neck area and then proceed intra oral," said Dr. Guerra.
He says around 30 percent of people who develop an oral cancer aren't particularly high risk, meaning they may not be smokers or heavy drinkers.
"If you're thinking that I don't need to have an oral cancer exam done, that's wrong. It's just like a lady can develop a breast tumor through know fault of her own, people can develop oral cancers," Dr. Guerra said.
Former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly is again battling jaw cancer.
His wife says Kelly's cancer is aggressive, and starting to spread.
A surgery in 2013 required the removal of part of his jaw and teeth..now he's tentatively scheduled for more surgery this week.
Dr. Guerra adds a lot of oral cancers are related to the Human Papillomavirus. It's the biggest form of of oral cancers in the younger age group and most of it is from sexual contact.