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Why You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

Why You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer isn’t one we hear about as often as some. Yet nearly 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of those diagnosed this year, about 10,000 will die. That’s more than one person per hour every single day.

Oral cancer is also known as mouth or oral cavity cancer. As it progresses, it can interfere with one’s ability to breathe, talk, eat, chew, or swallow. Oral cancer is usually found in the lips, tongue, and floor of the mouth. Sometimes oral cancer begins in the lining of the lips and cheeks, the minor salivary glands, the roof of the mouth, and the gums.

Here’s the really important part: When discovered early, the treatment of oral cancer is likely to be successful. That’s why we want you to know your risks and to get checked.

Who Is Likely to Develop Oral Cancer?

Historically, a majority of oral cancer cases have appeared in people over the age of 40; however, it is now occurring more frequently in younger patients. A couple of reasons this may be is the prevalence of the sexually transmitted HPV version 16 in younger populations and the increased popularity of smokeless tobacco.

In terms of gender, for decades oral cancer affected one woman for every six men, but in more recent years, the ratio has become one woman for every two men. Oral cancer occurs about twice as often in the black population as it does in whites. Some people with oral cancer have no known risk factors while others with several risk factors never develop the disease. It’s important to address any changes in your oral health with a professional as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Other risk factors include:

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The most common sign of oral cancer is a sore in the mouth that does not heal. There are many benign tissue changes that occur in your mouth, and some things as simple as a bite on the inside of your cheek may mimic the look of a dangerous tissue change. That’s why it is essential to have a professional check any sore or discolored area of your mouth that does not heal within 14 days.

Other common symptoms of oral cancer may include:

Diagnosing Oral Cancer : Get Checked

Early diagnosis gives you the best chance of successful treatment. Talk to your dentist or doctor immediately if you notice something irregular in your mouth. Your dentist will check your mouth and neck during your visits. He or she may also offer a scan of your cells. This typically costs a little more, but it’s worth doing once every two years or so, especially if you’re at a higher risk for oral cancer.

If you are a smoker or heavy drinker, you should also ask your primary care physician for a head and neck cancer examination each year. This is a simple non-invasive procedure that takes about 15 minutes. Your doctor will check your mouth, nose, throat, and neck for lumps and irregularities.

Treatment of Oral Cancer

Successful treatment of oral cancers is usually a multidisciplinary approach involving the efforts of surgeons, radiation and chemotherapy oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists. Whether a patient has surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or some combination thereof is dependent on the stage of development of cancer.

Prevention of Oral Cancer

Thankfully, oral cancers are among the most preventable of all cancers.

Do you have questions about oral cancer? Ask your Generations Family Practice physician about your risks.

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