Imagine sitting across the desk from your doctor receiving the news that you have got oral cancer. It’s scary thought, but one that upwards of 31,000 people have to face every year in the US alone, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Oral cancer is deadly and it is on the rise! Smoking and drinking alcohol can put you at high risk for developing this cancer, but there are many who are not a part of this “high risk” group who have also been affected by it.
From 8th to 15th April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and it is for good reason because approximately 53,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Oral cancer accounts for 3% of all cancer diagnoses, affecting more men than women. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer is key to can a positive outcome and preventing it from spreading to other areas of the body.
Approximately, 90% of those diagnosed with oral cancer of pharyngeal cancer, including cancer of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, parts of the nose, and larynx, are TOBACCO USERS.
Early Detection Is Life-saving!
Oral cancer kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year! And the reason why the death rate for this kind of cancer remains particularly high is that it is routinely discovered late in its development.
Being able to recognize oral cancer in its earliest stages lessens the severity of needed treatment and the negative long – term effects. There are different oral cancer symptoms to be aware of for early-stage and late-stage development. So, what are the symptoms you should be watching for?
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
One of the good things about oral cancer is that it frequently begins with easily identifiable symptoms. But many people either ignore the symptoms or do not seek the help of a medical professional until it has advanced to a more serious stage. You can be proactive in your fight against oral cancer by taking five minutes a month to check your gums, tongue, and lips for any of these tell-tale signs.
Early oral cancer symptoms you should watch for include:
- Persistent red or white patches of skin in the soft tissues of the mouth,
- A sore in the mouth that won’t heal,
- Unusual oral bleeding or hoarseness,
- Teeth shifting position without apparent cause,
- Paine when swallowing,
- Poorly fitting dentures,
- Jaw pain or stiffness,
- A feeling something is stuck in the throat,
- Painful tongue,
- Pain in the neck or ear that does not go away.
Late oral cancer symptoms that you need to act on immediately are:
- A hardened area of previously soft tissue,
- Numbness, tingling or pain in the tongue or lips,
- Airway obstruction,
- A chronic earache,
- Pain or difficulty when chewing or talking,
- A tight sensation when you attempt to open your mouth.
Here is some risk factors that can affect your oral cancer.
All forms of tobacco increase a person’s risk of oral cancer. In fact, smokers are six times more likely to get oral cancer than nonsmokers.
“Tobacco is a toxic killer and offers you nothing more than disease and ultimately, DEATH!”
Heavy, regular alcohol consumption is a risk factor for oral cancer. It’s estimated that 75-80% of those with oral cancer drink alcohol frequently. Like smokers, people who drink a lot of alcohol on a regular basis are also six times more likely to get oral cancer than nondrinkers.
Tobacco and Alcohol
The risk of oral cancer that each substance represents is compounded when they are used together.
It appears that men contact oral cancer at twice the rate of women, due to the fact that they are more likely to smoke and drink heavily for longer periods of time than females.
After the age of 40, the risk of oral cancer increases, with 60 being the average age of diagnosis.
HPV – Human Papillomavirus
HPV or Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection with hundreds of various strains. A few have been identified with strong associations to oral cancer.
Sun exposure increases the risk of developing lip cancer, especially for those with fair skin. Most lip cancers occur on the bottom lip, likely because it’s more exposed to the sun. Be sure to use a lip balm with SPF when you spend time outdoors.
“It’s important to note that survival rates for oral cancer are 50% five years after diagnosis. The earlier oral cancer is detected, the better a person’s chances for survival are.”
Your Dentist Can Recognize Oral Cancer Symptoms
Because many people simply do not routinely self-screen for oral cancer, the dentist has become the first line of defence when it comes to detecting it.
Many dentists either include or offer oral cancer screening as part of a routine patient examination. If you have not had an oral cancer screening from your dentist lately, ask for one. Many dental professionals will be offering free oral cancer screening during the month of April as part of their efforts to support oral cancer awareness week.
Be aware! Take action! Stay healthy!