Did you know that, according to the National Cancer Institute, more than 48,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2016. Of those diagnosed with these cancers, 40 percent will not survive longer than five years, and those who do survive suffer long-term problems, such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties with eating and speaking.
While heavy smoking and tobacco use are historically the major risk factors for oral cancer, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is actually young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals, mainly due to the connection to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
Oral cancer begins in the mouth, also called the oral cavity, which includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the gums, most of the tongue, the bottom of the mouth, and the bony roof of the mouth, or hard palate. It can also develop in the oropharynx, the part of the throat just behind the mouth. When cancer occurs here, it is called oropharyngeal cancer or throat cancer, and can include the back of the tongue, the back of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, and the walls of the upper throat.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Among the risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, infection with HPV, sun exposure, diet, betel nut use, and personal history of oral cancer.
Symptoms for Oral Cancer
Visit your dentist or physician immediately if you have symptoms including:
- red or white patches inside the mouth or on the lips
- a sore on the mouth or lips that doesn’t heal
- lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
- pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth, lower lip or chin
- bleeding in the mouth
- lump in the neck
- difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
- numbness of lower lip and chin
- difficulty wearing dentures or a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
- a persistent earache
What You Can Do
The high death rate associated with oral and oropharyngeal cancers is due to the fact that they tend to be discovered late in their development. However, when detected and treated early, mortality and treatment-related health problems are reduced.
Dr. Angell routinely performs regular oral cancer examinations with your six-month dental exams. In between dental visits, be sure to check yourself for the signs and symptoms listed above and call our office if they do not improve or disappear after a week or two.
If you have concerns about oral cancer, Dr. Douglas Angell and the dental hygienists at Angell’s Dentistry will be happy to answer your questions. Give our office a call, and schedule your routine dental exam while you are at it. Learn more about us by visiting our website at: www.angellsdentistry.com.