For most of the world the mere mention of the word cancer is frightening. Everyone’s lives have been touched in some way by this dreaded disease. However, with today’s medical advancements many different types of cancer of very treatable and very curable. Unfortunately, oral cancer is not one of those types of cancer. In fact, oral cancer kills one person per hour every day of the year in the United States alone. Another issue with oral cancer is it is often not detected until the later stages when it is too late for treatment.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer includes any cancer that begins and develops in your mouth. This can mean the throat, cheeks, tongue, hard and soft palates, floor of the mouth, or lips. Oral cancer usually begins as a sore in the mouth that does not heal. Unfortunately, many assume it is just a canker sore or a pizza burn and ignore it. This usually leads to a much later detection of the disease. The majority of oral cancer is classified as squamous cell carcinoma, which attacks epithelial cells.
Males are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. They run 2 times (2x) the risk as females do of developing oral cancer. That may be because many of the top causes of oral cancer, such as smoking, are more widely practiced by men than women. As for age, people who are middle-aged and older are most likely to develop the disease.
Oral cancer kills over 8,000 people every year in the United States. Approximately 43,000 are newly diagnosed each year, but many others go into remission only to have the cancer come back a few years later. The oral cancer survival rate is 57 percent, and this has actually improved over the past decade (used to be 50% survival rate) as people become more vigilant about getting screened.
A disturbing trend is that an increasing number of oral cancer cases are being caused by HPV16 (a type of Human Papilloma Virus) that effects the mucus membranes and skin. It tends to affect the back of the mouth, including the oropharynx, the tonsils, and the base of the tongue.Unfortunately, since these types of cancer are in the back of the mouth, the color changes and lesions that often signal the presence of oral cancer can be more easily overlooked by patients. They may not know that their mouth has undergone any chance and not seek professional care.
Oral cancer has a high risk of recurring for the first 10 years after diagnosis. Patients are up to 20 times (20x) as likely to get cancer again as those who have not been diagnosed with oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
There are many risk factors and these can include:
-Smoking (Tobacco use).
-Excessive Drinking Of Alcohol.
Oral Cancer Signs And Symptoms
The most commons signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:
-Oral sores lasting for 2 weeks or more without healing.
-Facia or oral numbness.
-Unexplained facial or oral pain.
-Unexplained lingering sore throat.
-Changes in your voice (increased hoarseness).
-Unexplained weight loss.
-Frequent oral bleeding with no apparent cause.
-White or red patches in the mouth.
-Crusty lesions inside or outside the mouth.
Oral Cancer Screening By Your Dentist
Your dentist should screen for oral cancer during routine dental examinations at least twice a year. A manual and visual examination is necessary. He or she feels for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity, and thoroughly examines the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. The use of the Velscope oral cancer screening system has been proven to diagnose precancerous as well as cancerous changes in the tissue as early as possible to give you the best chance for recovery and survival from oral cancer.
Treatment of Oral Cancer
If during your dental examination your dentist finds anything suspicious they will recommend that you have a biopsy performed of that area. The biopsy of the lesion will be used to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. If it is confirmed that you do indeed have oral cancer you will probably be referred to an oral surgeon for removal of the tumors. Radiation or chemotherapy may be also used in the course of your treatment.
Oral Cancer Conclusion
If you have any concerns about your oral health or have any of the warning signs listed above, see your dentist immediately. As in any disease, an early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated. So be vigilant and, even if you do not have any warning signs, visit your dentist for routine oral cancer screenings.