Oral Cancer Awareness month: What you need to know

Attendees cross the start line at the 2019 San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. To celebrate, the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry has partnered with The Oral Cancer Foundation to host The San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk 2022 on Saturday, April 23. It will be the first event in Texas hosted since the pandemic to celebrate oral cancer survivors and honor those lost to the disease.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 54,000 individuals in the U.S. will be diagnosed this year with oral and oropharyngeal cancers, which can affect the mouth, tongue or throat. Oral cancers are typically fast moving and, if not diagnosed early, can lead to poor outcomes in chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

“Oral cancer presents with key signs and symptoms that any dentist should be able to recognize during a routine clinical examination,” said David Ojeda Diaz, DDS, assistant professor in the School of Dentistry and one of the organizers of this year’s oral cancer walk.

Common signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

– Mouth sores that do not heal.

– Masses in the mouth.

– Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

– Mouth pain and difficulty swallowing.

A 2019 walk participant receives a free oral cancer screening.

Individuals age 50 or older with a history of heavy drinking or smoking have a higher risk of developing oral cancer. However, studies have identified an influx of young, nonsmoking patients diagnosed with oral cancer due to a common viral infection.

“In recent years, there has been a significant increase in oropharyngeal cancer associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV),” Dr. Ojeda said. “In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine against nine strains of HPV, which includes strains causing oropharyngeal cancer.”

At this year’s event, student and faculty volunteers from the School of Dentistry and the School of Nursing will provide free oral cancer screenings and human papillomavirus vaccinations for anyone attending the event. Event attendees can also look forward to raffles, music and special guest speakers.

Register now!

The San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk will be held from 8 a.m. to noon at UT Dentistry’s Center for Oral Health Care and Research, 8210 Floyd Curl Drive. Registration for the Oral Cancer Walk is free for all oral cancer survivors, $30 for pre-registered adults and $15 for children ages 6 to 10. The event is open to everyone.

To register, find more information, or donate visit The Oral Cancer Foundation’s event webpage.

UT Health San Antonio is a comprehensive academic health center that provides its patients with seamless care among all providers. The dentists at UT Dentistry routinely collaborate with experts at the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, to deliver precise, personalized care.

If you would like to schedule a routine, preventive care check-up with our dentists please call 210-567-6453 or visit UTHealthDental.com.

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