Oral Cancer is among the top most deadly cancers in the world.
A report by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons stated that:
Oral cancer kills one person, every hour, every day…
“Oral cancer is typically detected by a doctor, not a dentist, by which time it is usually a late-stage diagnosis,” he went on to say. “In fact, 40 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer will be dead in five years and 78 percent diagnosed with Stage IV, late-stage cancer will be dead in five years. Early detection of oral cancer would improve the survival rate to 80 to 90 percent.” It was also noted that fewer than 15% of people who go to the dentist regularly get screened for cancer.
“When you look at the five-year mortality rate for oral cancer, it’s scary,” it goes on, “Oral cancer is more deadly than the more familiar cancers: breast, cervical, and prostate, and also more deadly than liver, kidney, thyroid, or colon cancers.”
I wanted to do a post on Oral Cancer for Oral Cancer Awareness Month partly because there really is no broad knowledge of it and there really should be. Sure, it is great that we have an Oral Cancer Awareness Month, but I think it actually demands more than just a month worth of awareness, as it is one of the most deadly cancers out there.
You really don’t hear of oral cancer every day. It needs the same grim spotlight that other, more infamous cancers have received. One of the reasons this particular cancer is so lethal is the lack of screenings across the country, and therefore the lack of detection of this type of cancer in people. This leads to about 40% of those diagnosed dying within five years, which rises to a 78% mortality rate within five years if you are diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. One of the saddest things about this type of cancer is, all it would take is a very simple screening on one of your regular dental check-ups, which you should be having every 6 months or so. This would increase the survival potential of anyone that does have this type of cancer, because it would be found in the earlier stages where it is still treatable.
Detecting and Diagnosing
Detecting the early stages of oral cancer is pretty simple. Have your dentist check for the signs inside your mouth. They are trained to spot it and screen for it. He/she will be checking your tongue, both top and bottom, as well as the sides. He’ll check your palate, your cheeks, your gums and the throat. What he is looking for, and what you should always be aware of is:
Tongue or throat swelling.
Any lumps around the mouth or neck.
Experiencing numbness anywhere around the mouth.
White or red spots that show up on the cheeks, gums, or soft tissue under the tongue.
Some signs of the more advanced stages of oral cancer:
Hoarseness of the voice lasting an extended time.
Difficulty and pain when chewing or when you’re swallowing.
Sores that are bleeding and do not heal inside your mouth.
Obviously you don’t want to wait for these later stages as these will be the ones which will prompt you to go see a doctor as opposed to a dentist. This is the later stage of the oral cancer. The RIGHT thing to do is get screened regularly by your dentist so it is caught early.
Another point to mention; one of the major contributors to increasing number of oral cancer incidents is HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus. The oral cancer related to this, is affecting our younger generation on a daily basis and is easily transferable through oral sexual activities. It also now plays a role in more than 25% of oral cancer cases. This is a pretty important point as few people, if any even know they have HPV.
Who’s at risk?
- Patients ages 40 and older (95% of all cases)
- 18-39 combined with the following: Tobacco use, chronic alcohol consumption, oral HPV infection.
- People 65 and older with certain lifestyle risk factors as above.
- People with a history of oral cancer.
However, despite those factors, 25% of oral cancers occur in people who have absolutely no risk factors.
When oral cancer is found early, treatment CAN be successful about 82% of the time. The only reason survival rate has not greatly improved over the last 30 years, is because of a lack of screening, and therefore, catching it in it’s early stages.
I implore you, please, get a regular screening for oral cancer and help reduce this deadly cancer’s prevalence.
Find out more at:
International Oral Cancer Association
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Stay healthy my friends.