Understanding Oral Cancer
Oral Cancer – And What To Look Out For
Although it’s not the most pleasant of subjects to discuss, it is an extremely important one. So, this month, we here at Bonaventure Dental Care in Baton Rouge would like to talk about Oral Cancer.
Oral cancer and Oropharyngeal cancers are the largest group of cancers which fall into the head and neck cancer category. You may have heard them referred to as mouth cancer, throat cancer or tongue cancer.
Oral Cancer – did you know that:
- Oral Cancer kills one American every hour of every day!
- Around 54,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with some form of oral cancer this year and of this number, just over half (57 per cent) will be alive within five years.
- Around 11,320 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer will occur this year.
- Historically the death rate associated with oral cancer is high, not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but because the cancer is often discovered too late in its development.
- It is estimated that around $4.5bn is spent in the United States annually on the treatment of head and neck cancers.
There are generally two significant causes of Oral and Oropharyngeal cancer – one is through the prolonged use of tobacco or alcohol, and another is through exposure to the HPV-16 virus. The Human Papilloma Virus infects the epithelial cells of the skin and mucosa, which includes those soft tissue areas such as the throat, gums and tongue.
Unfortunately, there is no national screening policy or protocol in place at the moment for oral cancer checks, so the risk factors continue. The best option is to avoid this disease and also to keep an eye on your oral health and take notice of any early physical changes in your mouth.
This can be done via self-checks, whilst we dentists can also help with recognizing changes in your mouth during routine oral hygiene appointments which can help with an early diagnosis.
After self-checks, dentists are often the first line of defense in the early detection of oral cancers. Dentists are in a unique position to be able to examine our patients and notice any precursor tissue changes or actual cancer whilst it is in its earliest stages.
Oral Cancer symptoms
The various symptoms to look out for, which can be caused from oral cancers from HPV or those associated with tobacco or alcohol, include:
- An ulcer or sore that does not heal within 2 to 3 weeks.
- A red, white, or black patch on the gums, tongue or inner mouth area.
- Difficult or pain when swallowing. There may be a sensation that things are sticking in the throat when swallowing
- A swollen but painless tonsil. Tonsils on both sides should be symmetrical in size.
- Pain when chewing.
- A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice.
- A swelling or lump in the mouth.
- A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least 2 weeks.
- A numb feeling in the mouth or lips.
- Constant coughing.
- An earache on one side which lasts for more than a few days.
Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week
April 3-9th is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCA) and this campaign aims to raise awareness of this disease and provides educational and promotional support. The OHANCA program also works with local hospitals and clinics to provide free head and neck cancer screenings throughout the US and abroad.
You can find more information about this via the links below or make an appointment to come and discuss any worries you may have here at Bonaventure Dental Care in Baton Rouge. We’ll be happy to advise.
Checkyourmouth.org – a how-to video on self-examination of the head and neck areas.
headandneck.org/ohancaw – Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week.
oralcancerfoundation.org – prevention, support and research into oral cancer.