Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue cheeks, floor of the mouth hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.In 2016, there were nearly 45,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx diagnosed in the United States and more than 10,000 deaths. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is about 61 percent. The mortality rate from oral cancer is nearly three times as high in males as it is in females (4 vs 1.4 for every 100,000 people) and nearly twice as high in white and black populations as it is in Hispanic population (2.6 vs. 1.5 for every 100,000 people).6 Preventing high risk behaviors, that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers. Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers. Oral Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease, can cause cancers in the back of the throat, called “oropharyngeal cancers.” More research is needed to determine whether HPV itself causes oropharyngeal cancers, or if other factors (such as smoking or chewing tobacco) interact with HPV to cause these cancers
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
- The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
- A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat or change in voice
- ear pain
- A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
- Dramatic weight loss
If you notice any of these changes, contact your dentist or health care professional immediately
Oral cancers include cancers of the:
- inner lining of the cheek
- floor of the mouth
- hard and soft palate
Your dentist is often the first healthcare provider to notice signs of oral cancer. Getting checkups can keep your dentist up to date on the health of your mouth.
One of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer is TOBACCO USE This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as chewing tobacco.
People who consume large amounts of alcohol and tobacco are at an even greater risk, especially when both products are used on a regular basis.
Other risk factors include:
- chronic facial sun exposure
- a previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- a family history of oral or other types of cancer
- a weakened immune system
- poor nutrition
- genetic syndromes
- being male
Men are twice likely to get oral cancer as women are.