The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer facts

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early. Close to 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 9,750 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 54,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) This is a number that has not significantly improved in decades. (The survival number at 5 years from diagnosis was for many decades about 50%, so 57% is an improvement over the last ten years.

Age, gender, race, and ethnicity

The demographics of people that develop oral cancer have been consistent for some time. While historically the majority of people are over the age of 40 at the time of discovery, it is now occurring more frequently in those under this age. The causes for those affected at a younger age are linked to young men and women who use conventional “smokeless” chewing or spit tobacco.

Oral cancer risk factors

Understanding the factors that cause cancer will help in preventing the disease. Age is often named as a risk factor for oral cancer, as historically it occurs in those over the age of 40. The age of diagnosed patients may indicate a time component in the biochemical processes of aging cells that allows malignant transformation, or perhaps, immune system competence diminishes with age.

Possible signs and symptoms

One of the dangers of this cancer is that in its early stages, it can go unnoticed. It can be painless, and little in the way of physical changes may be obvious. The good news is, that your Dentist can in many cases, see or feel the precursor tissue changes, or actual cancer while it is still very small, or in its earliest stages.

Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:

  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn't heal
  • A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

Oral Cancer Treatment

After a definitive diagnosis treatment may begin. Treatment of oral cancers is a multidisciplinary approach involving the efforts of surgeons, radiation oncologists, chemotherapy oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists. The actual treatment is usually chemotherapy with concurrent radiation, sometimes combined with surgery. Chemotherapy while able to kill cancer cells itself is currently not used as the only treatment for oral cancers.

When to see your dentist

Make an appointment if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that bother you and last more than two weeks. With proper treatment planning and good oral care, Contact the Plano dentist Dr. Fred Haight to help you reverse gum disease and help stop your bleeding gums.