Oral Cancer Awareness Month
April is oral cancer awareness month. There are approximately 54,540 new oral cancer cases diagnosed in the United States every year. There are approximately 11,580 deaths from oral cancer in the United States every year. Oral cancer occurs most often on the tongue, the tonsils and oropharynx, which is the part of the throat behind the mouth, the gums, the lips, and the floor of the mouth.
Most often oral cancer is diagnosed in people 65 and older but it is estimated that approximately 20% of oral cancer diagnosis are people under the age of 55. While some people may not have any risk factors that contribute to them developing oral cancer it is estimated that as much as 90% of oral cancers can be attributed to tobacco use, alcohol use, or both. Another couple of risk factor is being infected with a cancer causing strain of HPV or the Human Papilloma Virus, and exposure to asbestos.
Oral cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer if it is caught early. If treatment is delayed or it goes undetected for some time it has proven to be one of the most fatal of the major types of cancer. If diagnosed and treated early oral cancer has a 70-90% survival rate. If the cancer is found once it has spread or metastasized to other more distant parts of the body the survival rates drop significantly. For example late stage distant metastasis of lip cancer drops to 33%, tongue cancer drops to 41%, floor of the mouth cancer drops to 23%, and oropharynx drops to 28%. This is why early detection is so crucial.
You should be having annual or bi-annual check ups with your dentist. At those visits they will perform an oral cancer screening where they check the tongue, floor of the mouth, gum tissue, and throat for any lumps, bumps, or abnormal tissue/coloring. It is imperative that you be seen by your dentist for regular check ups so if something were to be seen the proper referrals can be made and diagnosis obtained quickly.