For more than a decade there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. While some think this is a rare cancer, mouth cancers will be newly diagnosed in about 132 new individuals each day in the US alone, and a person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day. When found at early stages of development, oral cancers have an 80 to 90 % survival rate. Unfortunately, at this time, the majority are found as late stage cancers, and this accounts for the very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis. Late stage diagnosis is not occurring because most of these cancers are hard to discover, it is because of a lack of awareness.
Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 60% will live longer than 5 years. Moreover, many who do survive suffer long-term problems such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties eating and speaking. The death rate associated with oral and pharyngeal cancers remains particularly high due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.
Oral cancer can strike in the mouth and throat with most of these cancers beginning in the flat cells—squamous cells—that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue and lips. Some of the risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, infection with human papillomavirus, sun exposure, diet, betel nut use, and personal history of oral cancer.
Symptoms to watch for include patches inside the mouth or on the lips, a sore on the mouth or lips that doesn’t heal, bleeding in the mouth, loose teeth, pain or difficulty swallowing, lump in the neck, numbness of lower lip and chin, difficulty wearing dentures and a persistent earache.
We perform oral cancer screenings routinely during dental exams. In fact, we also use a non-invasive device called a VELscope that aids in finding abnormalities not visible to the naked eye. The key is early detection, so don’t wait any longer and schedule an appointment today!