Did you know that oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer and accounts for approximately 4% of all cancers diagnosed? Most of the oral cancer diagnoses are in patients older than 45 years old. Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancers. The key to oral cancer, as in most cancers, is in early diagnosis. If diagnosed in its earliest stages, the chance for full recovery is at about 70% survival rate. The problem is that most are not diagnosed in its earliest forms, so less than half of all oral cancer patients are cured. Oral cancer also has the worst 5 year survival rate among all cancers, at about 57%.
If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement, and even death. Oral cancer accounts for about 8,000 deaths annually.
What’s the best way to get an early diagnosis early? Visit your dentist regularly for dental examinations, which typically include an oral cancer screening in the form of a soft tissue exam and in some cases the use of the Velscope oral cancer screening system. If you are not sure if your dentist has conducted a soft tissue exam, ask him or her to perform this screening for oral cancer, which includes a visual inspection of the oral cavity and palpation of the head, neck and oral cavity.
Causes of Oral Cancer?
As of now there is some debate over the actual cause of oral cancer but it is believed certain activities raise your risk for developing it. These include use of tobacco products, human papilloma virus (HPV), heavy alcohol use, as well as excessive exposure to the sun have all been found to have a link to developing oral cancer.
Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
The most common site for oral cancer are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, soft palate tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. Oral cancer shows up as red, white or discolored lesions, patches or lumps in or around the mouth, and it is typically painless and without symptoms in its early stages. As the malignant cancer spreads and destroys healthy oral tissue, the lesions or lumps can become quite painful. However, oral cancer is almost impossible to self diagnose so frequent dental examinations are highly recommended. You should see your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:
-Persistent mouth sore. Any mouth sore that persists longer than 10-14 days.
-a swelling, growth or lump anywhere in or near the mouth or neck.
-white or red patches in the mouth or on the lips.
-repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat.
-Persistent Sore Throat. Difficulty swallowing or persistent hoarseness.
Dental Screening for Oral Cancer
Your dentist should screen for oral cancer during routine dental examinations. He or she feels for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity, and thoroughly examines the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. The use of the Velscope oral cancer screening system has been proven to diagnose precancerous as well as cancerous changes in the tissue as early as possible to give you the best chance for recovery and survival from oral cancer.
Treatment of Oral Cancer
If during your dental examination your dentist finds anything suspicious they will recommend that you have a biopsy performed of that area. The biopsy of the lesion will be used to confirm the diagnosis of oral cancer. If it is confirmed that you do indeed have oral cancer you will probably be referred to an oral surgeon for removal of the tumors. Radiation or chemotherapy may be also used in the course of your treatment.
There are some preventive measures an individual can take and these include:
-Do not use tobacco products.
-Refrain from excessive alcohol use.
When tobacco and alcohol use are combined, the risk of oral cancer increases 15 times more than for non-users of tobacco and alcohol products.
Research suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may also safeguard against oral cancer development.
Because successful treatment and rehabilitation are dependent on early detection, it is extremely important to see your dentist for regular checkups including an oral cancer screening at least once a year. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated. During your next dental visit, ask your dentist to do an oral cancer screening.
Oral Cancer Conclusion
Oral cancer is one of the deadliest cancers we can face. Luckily, as science advances we have some tools at our disposal, like the Velscope, to give us the best chance for early diagnosis. Live a healthy lifestyle and you will decrease the chance of developing oral cancer.