Staying Vigilant to Catch Oral Cancer
Cancer can strike nearly any part of the body, and the mouth is one of its most frequent victims. While we tend to be more preoccupied with cavities and periodontal disease, our mouths can also present clues as to whether cancer may be lurking. But these clues are tricky to spot with the naked, untrained eye. It’s crucial that you schedule regular dental exams so that Dr. Lee has a chance to recognize abnormalities that could identify cancerous tissue.
Staying on Top of Oral Cancer Facts
Being aware of oral cancer’s rate of occurrence is important. While it’s not one of the most talked-about or publicized forms of cancer, it’s incredibly prevalent among American adults. In recent years, oral cancer has actually been on a disturbing increase. While improved medical technology, nutrition, and diagnostic tools have helped reduce instances of other cancers, certain complicating factors (the like the spread of HPV) have led to a greater number of oral cancer cases. This year, about 43,350 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and over 8,000 will lose the battle against it. Of the newly diagnosed patients, only 57% will be alive in 5 years.
One reason for this high mortality rate is oral cancer’s detection commonly occurring late in life. Providing effective, lifesaving treatment is simpler when cancer is identified at an early stage of development. Patients who receive early treatment have an 80-90% chance of surviving longer than five years. But when oral cancer is detected late, 5-year survival rates decrease to just 25-30%. This is the dominant reason why regular oral cancer screenings are imperative.
You may be at a higher risk of experiencing oral cancer if you fall into one of these categories:
- Tobacco user
- Heavy drinker
- Genetic predisposition
- Have a related disease like HPV
- Over the age of 55
- Male (men are 2x as likely to develop oral cancer, but this may be linked to higher tobacco and alcohol use)
Where Does Oral Cancer Take Hold?
Cancer can develop across your mouth and throat, in areas including the:
- Front part of the tongue
- Inner cheeks
- Roof of the mouth
- Bottom of the mouth
- Space behind the molars