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Have you ever felt a bump or a lump on your gums, tongue or inside of your cheek? It may be nothing, but you may want to discuss it with your dentist for your peace of mind.

Dental checkups are critical for healthy and long-lasting teeth, but they can also help with the detection of serious and even life-threatening forms of oral cancer. Early detection and treatment as soon as possible are important for defeating oral cancer.

Pro tennis star Nicole Gibbs recently found that a routine trip to the dentist led to the discovery of early salivary gland cancer, a rare but treatable form of oral cancer. Many other celebrities, including actor-producer Michael Douglas and guitarist Eddie Van Halen, have battled and defeated oral cancer, thanks to early diagnosis and treatment.

Currently, an estimated 91,000 people in the U.S. are living with oral cancer, and about 39,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, according to the National Institute of Health. About 8,000 deaths are connected to oral cancer every year in the U.S.

Many of those deaths could be prevented with early diagnosis, according to many reports. The five-year survival rate for oral cancer diagnosed early is 75 percent, but the rate drops dramatically to 20 percent with a late diagnosis, according to the NIH.

Although oral cancer is rare, it’s something a dentist should be looking for. If your dentist doesn’t always do an oral cancer screening, ask him about it.

It takes just a minute, and it may just save your life.

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