(CNN) -- Pat Folsom, 54, knows the importance of preventive medicine. As a health care worker, she goes for scheduled checkups. So when she went in for a routine dental exam last year, she didn't expect more than a cleaning, maybe a filling. But her dentist found something more serious.
"She told me I had a lesion on my cheek and that it needed to be checked," Folsom said. "After a lot of tests, they found it was oral cancer."
Folsom was surprised. "I thought surely this was a mistake. I never smoked, I never drank heavily, and I never had a family history of this. How could this be?" she asked.
About 34,000 new U.S. cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, and the numbers are rising, according to the . Although oral cancer has primarily been a man's illness, affecting six men for every woman, the foundation says that over the past 10 years, that ratio has become two men to each woman.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. Please share this important message with your loved ones and friends.