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Oral Cancer Is On the Rise

Many other cancers are more well-known than oral/pharyngeal cancer, but the truth is, oral cancer is very common. Oral cancer is diagnosed more frequently than cervical and ovarian cancer combined. Oral/Pharyngeal cancer affects the oral cavity, throat, tongue and mouth. 85% of head/neck cancers (excluding brain cancer) are oral cancers.
Oral/pharyngeal cancer has a high mortality rate due to the fact that so many cases go undiagnosed and undetected until the disease has progressed significantly. Sadly, 57% of patients diagnosed will lose their battle within 5 years. Early detection reduces the mortality rate of this cancer significantly, making complete remission and even curing the disease possible.

Why Oral Cancer Goes Undetected

Early detection of oral cancer and pre-cancer is the key to surviving the disease. Most people do not realize that they are at risk for developing this type of cancer. In the past, it was believed that risk factors were largely limited to lifestyle habits such as alcohol and tobacco use.

In recent years, research has shown that age as well as the presence of the HPV-16 virus are important risk factors for developing oral cancer. 25% of all oral cancers are diagnosed in patients with no lifestyle risk factors. What this means is that every American adult should be carefully screened for oral cancer on an annual basis.

The most qualified person to perform an oral cancer screening exam is your dentist or oral surgeon.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

You should ask your dentist or oral surgeon to perform an oral-cancer screening on an annual basis. In addition, a monthly self-exam is a great idea. You can find instructions on performing a monthly self-exam here.

Signs and Symptoms to Look For:

  • A sore or lesion which does not heal on it’s own within 2 weeks.
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • White or red patches on oral soft tissues
  • A sore throat or a feeling of something caught in your throat
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
  • Numbness or unexplained swelling in the jaw
  • Chronic hoarseness