April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month – Have You Been Screened?

Have you been Screened?

 
Detecting oral cancer early can nearly double your chances of survival. Approximately 3% of all cancers diagnosed in 2015 involved the mouth or back of the throat.

April is oral cancer awareness month and the Oral Cancer Foundation would like to invite you to join them in their national screening campaign to end oral cancer! The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 48,250 Americans will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, tongue, mouth or throat. There are two kinds of oral cancer: oral cavity cancer and oropharyngeal cancer, and often the earliest signs are missed or mistaken for other problems such as a toothache or cold. Oral cancer is not rare, and screening should be considered just as important as testing for cervical, prostate and breast cancer.

 

Simple Facts

Oral cancer has the lowest survival rate because it is typically painless in its early stages and goes unnoticed by the sufferer until it spreads, leading to chronic pain and sometimes loss of function before it is diagnosed. The good news is however, that your physician or dentist can in many cases see or feel tissue changes, or the actual cancer while it is still very small, or in its earliest stages.
The Oral Cancer Foundation sites the following simple facts:

  • One Hundred (100) new people in the United States EVERY DAY will be newly diagnosed with an oral cancer.
  • One (1) person EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY, 24/7/365 will die from oral cancer.
  • The likelihoods of developing oral cancer increases with age, and is diagnosed most often in adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years of age, but is now occurring more frequently in those under this age.
  • Men tend to be at greater risk than women for oral cancer.

 

Risk Factors For Oral Cancer

  • Tobacco use accounts for most oral cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes; and using chewing tobacco, are all linked to oral cancer.
  • People who drink alcohol (more than 4 dinks a day) are more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don’t drink.
  • Spending long periods in the sun has been associated with lip cancer. Using a lotion or lip balm that has a sunscreen can reduce the risk.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity.

 

What Are The Symptoms Of Oral Cancer?

Some of the most common symptoms and signs of oral cancer include:

  • Patches inside your mouth or on your lips that are white, a mixture of red and white, or red.
  • A sore on your lip or in your mouth that won’t heal.
  • Bleeding in your mouth.
  • Loosening of the teeth.
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing, chewing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • Swelling of your jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
  • A lump or growth in your throat or neck.
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness on the lips, tongue, or elsewhere in the mouth.
  • Hoarseness or other changes in your voice.
  • Cough or sore throat that will not go away, or the feeling that something is caught in the throat that does not go away.
  • An earache.

Anyone with these symptoms should see their doctor or dentist so that any problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Most often, these symptoms do not mean cancer. An infection or another problem can cause the same symptoms. If you have symptoms that suggest oral cancer, request an examination and/or screening from your doctor or dentist. The screening is usually quick and painless, and includes looking carefully at the roof of your mouth, back of your throat, and inside of the cheeks and lips.

 

Treatment

Your doctor or dentist may refer you to a specialist. Specialists who treat oral cancer include Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Otolaryngologists, medical Oncologists, Ear, Nose & Throat physicians, and Plastic Surgeons. Whether a patient has surgery, radiation and surgery, or radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, is dependent on the stage of development of the cancer. Each case is individual. Patients with cancers treated in their early stages, may have little in the way of post treatment disfigurement. For those whose cancer is caught at a later stage, it can lead to surgery and facial and oral disfigurement. Surgery can include removal of a portion of the tongue, jaw or facial features. It is important to find oral cancer as early as possible when it can be treated more successfully and increase your chances of recovery.

If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss this concern with your doctor or dentist, and remember to ask about your oral cancer screening at your next visit to your dentist. Most people receive an oral cancer screening during their regular dental checkup but do not realize it. Make oral cancer screening part of all of your regular yearly checkups, you and your family will be glad you did.