Oral and pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat) collectively kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 60% will live longer than 5 years. Moreover, many who do survive suffer long-term problems such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties eating and speaking. The death rate associated with oral and pharyngeal cancers remains particularly high due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
This month, we want to remind you that regular oral cancer examinations from your dental professional are the best methods to detect oral cancer in its early stages. Regular dental visits can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
- Tobacco Smoking
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- Gender (twice as common in men)
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Poor oral hygiene
- Oral HPV infection
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms
The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it can be diagnosed as soon as possible. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers.
- Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth, wart-like masses, mouth sores that do not heal
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from oral cavity
- Distortion of any of the senses, numbness in oral or facial regions
- Sore throat, hoarseness, ear pain
- Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, shifting of teeth
HPV and Oral Cancer
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is an infection that can be transmitted through sexual contact, unwashed hands and saliva. HPV 16 and 18 have been linked to oral cancer. It is estimated that over 50% of all oral cancers are associated with HPV lesions. A vaccine is now available to prevent infections from HPV 16 and 18.
Help Raise Awareness
If you’d like to help us raise oral cancer awareness this month, feel free to share this blog with your friends on social media. And remember to ask for an oral cancer screening at your next dental checkup!