Approximately 36,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer each year and about 7,900 will die from the disease. On average, 61 percent of those with the disease will survive more than 5 years. Educating yourself on prevention methods, early detection, and treatment options is more important than ever.
The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold.
If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it can be diagnosed as soon as possible. When oral cancer is detected early, the survival rate is an encouraging 80% to 90%.
Some of the most common oral cancer symptoms and signs include:
- A sore in the mouth that does not heal is the most common symptom of oral cancer
- Persistent mouth pain is another common oral cancer sign
- A lump or thickening in the cheek
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness of the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth
- Loosening of the teeth
- Pain in the teeth or jaw
Most cases of oral cancer are linked to cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol use, or the use of both tobacco and alcohol together. Using tobacco plus alcohol poses a much greater risk than using either substance alone.
Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to a subset of oral cancers.
Risk increases with age. Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40. A diet low in fruits and vegetables may play a role in oral cancer development.
Oral Cancer Prevention Tips:
While oral cancer is prevalent, there are measures you can take to minimize your risk.
– Avoid smoking and the use of all tobacco products.
– Limit or refrain from drinking alcohol.
– Avoid overexposure to the sun, and use sunblock on your skin and lips.
– Practice safe sex.
– Maintain a healthy diet.