It’s estimated that by the end of this year, 40,000 people will have been newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Unfortunately, oral cancer is often not detected until it is in the late stages. Far too many people avoid regular trips to the dentist – which means they’re also not receiving that all-important oral exam.
When oral cancer is diagnosed early and treated properly, the survival rate is between 80 and 90 percent. However, within five years of a late-stage diagnosis, the survival rate for oral cancer drops to 55 percent.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer includes cancers of the tongue, lips, cheeks, sinuses, throat, and floor and roof of the mouth. Symptoms can include:
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding
- Lips, gums, or other oral tissue that has swelling, thickness, bumps, or lumps
- Trouble eating, speaking, moving the tongue, or moving the jaw
- A chronic sore throat
- Persistent mouth sores that bleed easily
What Causes Oral Cancer
The American Cancer Society reports that men are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer than women, particularly men over the age of 50.
Risk factors? The biggest culprit should be obvious: tobacco. Over 20 cancer-causing carcinogens can be found in tobacco. Whether you smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, people who smoke are six times more likely to develop oral cancers. And smokeless tobacco is no less detrimental – snuff, dip, chew, whatever you want to call it, increases a person’s oral cancer risk by 50 percent.
Your Risk for Oral Cancer
As with all cancers, some rare oral cancers can develop without any obvious cause. Abstaining from tobacco use is one way to improve your oral health, but it doesn’t guarantee your safety from oral cancer. Regular dental visits can improve the chances of early detection of oral cancer – otherwise, many of the symptoms do not appear until the disease has progressed quite far.
Make an appointment with Dr. Ken Cirka at his Philadelphia dental office to discuss your preventive dental care and determine whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are a sign of gum disease or oral cancer.