“Close to 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 9,575 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 48,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.” – Oral Cancer Foundation
This is the harsh reality of oral cancer, a disease that is easy to diagnose, but often discovered too late.
The Facts: The death rate of oral cancer is higher than cancers we hear about more frequently, including cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid. In fact, there are more deaths from mouth cancer each year than there are from road accidents. If you expand the definition of oral and oropharyngeal cancers to include cancer of the larynx, the numbers of diagnosed cases grow to approximately 54,000 individuals, and 13,500 deaths per year in the U.S. alone. Worldwide the problem is much greater, with over 450,000 new cases being found each year.
The median age of diagnosis is 62 years old, with the highest percentage of deaths falling within the 55-64 age group. Oral cancer is more common in men than in women, with two men affected for every woman. And those with a history of tobacco or heavy alcohol use account for nearly 75% of all oral cancers diagnosed. Smokers are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop mouth or pharyngeal cancer, and approximately 90% of people with oral cancer are tobacco users. Over the past 10 years, its incidence has increased in the younger population due to increased contraction of human human papilloma virus (HPV), which is now considered the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer.
Signs and Symptoms: If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms that last for more than two weeks (14 days), you should consider scheduling an appointment with your dentist or doctor for a screening. Remember, early detection is critical.
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A lump or thickening of the skin or lining of your mouth
- A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Poorly fitting dentures
- Tongue pain
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Difficult or painful chewing
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Sore throat
Get Involved: If you’d like to spread awareness this month and beyond, there are plenty of ways to do so.
- Share this article!
- Call a location near you to schedule a screening today
- Visit your doctor to get tested for HPV
- Talk to your friends and family about oral cancer