April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month; free screenings offered

The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that close to 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day. Pitt County has the seventh highest death rate due to cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx among North Carolina’s 100 counties.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons says: “While smoking and heavy drinking are still major risk factors, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals under the age of 40. Recent research has identified the human papilloma virus version 16 as being sexually transmitted between partners and related to the increasing incidence of oral cancer in young non-smoking patients.

There are also links to young men and women who use conventional “smokeless” chewing or spit tobacco. Promoted by some as a safer alternative to smoking, this form of tobacco use is actually no safer when it comes to oral cancers.

Other factors that may promote oral cancer include physical trauma, infectious disease, poor oral hygiene and poor nutrition; however, the research regarding their involvement is uncertain. It is likely that there is a complex interaction of many external and internal factors that play a role in the development of oral cancer.”

For an Oral Cancer Self Examination Guide and Oral Cancer Fact Sheet, visit http://www.aaoms.org/oral_cancer_awareness.php.

The American Dental Association and the Oral Cancer Foundation encourage people to take part in Oral Cancer Awareness Month by visiting a dentist for an oral cancer screening. 

Free Screenings

ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty and students will conduct free oral cancer screenings 12:30-2:30 p.m., Saturday, April 6 at the Clark-LeClair Stadium Gate #2 during the home baseball game. The stadium is located on Charles Boulevard just south of Greenville Boulevard in Greenville.

There also are several income-based dental clinics in the vicinity of ECU that provide cancer screenings such as the Bernstein Community Health Center in Greenville, 252-695-6355; Kinston Community Health Center, 252-522-9800; and the Greene County Dental Clinic, 252-747-8181. Additionally, N.C. Missions of Mercy dental clinics provide screenings and treatments without cost; visit www.ncdental.org/ncds/NCMOM.asp.