Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers today and has one of the lowest survival rates. Approximately 42,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2013. That equals about 100 new individuals per day getting this diagnosis.
2013 is the fifth year in a row with an increase in diagnosed cases of oral cancer.
- Historically, tobacco and alcohol use have caused the problem.
- Today, HPV-16 (human papilloma virus version 16) is the main cause of oral cancer. HPV-16 is a sexually transmitted virus - the same one that causes the vast majority of cervical cancers in women.
Non-Smokers in the 25 - 50 age range are the fastest growing group to get oral cancer. Our national Center for Disease Control now recommends that starting at age 17, people get annual oral cancer screenings.
When diagnosed at the early stages of development, people with oral cancers have an 80 - 90% survival rate. Unfortunately at this time, the majority of cases are found as late stage cancer which accounts for the very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis.
Moreover, people with many forms of cancer can develop dental complications—some of them chronic and painful—from their cancer treatment. These include dry mouth and overly sensitive teeth, as well as accelerated tooth decay.
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, but the tongue appears to be the most common location. Other oral structures could include the lips, gums and other soft palate tissues in the mouth.
In general, early signs of oral cancer usually occur in the form of lumps, patchy areas and lesions, or breaks, in the tissues of the mouth. In many cases, these abnormalities are not painful in the early stages, making even self-diagnosis difficult.
Here are some additional warning signs:
- An ulcer or sore that does not heal within 2-3 weeks
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Pain when chewing
- A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice
- A swelling or lump in the mouth
- A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks.
- A numb feeling in the mouth or lips
- Constant coughing
- An ear ache on one side (unilateral) which persists for more than a few days.
What You Can Do
Dentists are the first line health care provider to screen for and detect oral cancer. Visit your Dentist regularly and you will receive annual visual and tactile oral cancer screening. No discomfort or pain involved, and it are very inexpensive. .
Dr. Z has a new disgnostic tools that uses colored lights to increase the effectiveness of your oral cancer screening.