September is Childhood Cancer Month. While none of us wants to dwell on the topic of childhood cancer, it’s important to be aware of a particular cancer that, while very rare in children, does have symptoms that should be investigated if they appear in your child.
According to the American Dental Association, oral cancer affects about 40,000 Americans, approximately 1300 of which are children under the age of 19. If untreated, the consequences are severe, which is why early diagnosis and treatment are vitally important. Oral cancer affects the cheeks, gums, lips, palate and throat.
Thankfully, the major risk factors for oral cancer—smoking, alcohol consumption and human papilloma virus (HPV)—generally do not apply to children. However, there are certain pediatric populations that are more susceptible to oral cancer, which is why it’s important to have any abnormalities of your child’s lips, gums, throat, palate and cheeks thoroughly evaluated.
1. Red or white patches in the mouth or on the lip
2. Sores in the mouth or lip that do not heal
3. Problems swallowing
4. Any swelling or lumps in the jaw, neck or mouth
It’s important to know that the symptoms above can also indicate other illnesses, such as strep throat, oral cold sores (herpes labialis), tonsillitis, thrush and many others. However, if your child develops any of the symptoms above, please do take him or her to the pediatrician as soon as possible, in order to diagnose the illness accurately.
See Your Pediatric Dentist Regularly
Although oral cancer is the least of the reasons to bring your child to our office every six months, I want you to know that in addition to screening your child for cavities, dental development and dental alignment we also do a thorough evaluation of your child’s general oral health. Please be sure to bring your children to see me every six months, without fail. Dental health is very important, as it affects more than a beautiful smile—it affects your child’s general health in many ways.
It’s a privilege to provide pediatric dental care to your family. I look forward to seeing your child(ren) on a regular basis and answering your questions and addressing your concerns any time you have them.