In today’s world, cancer is unfortunately a common topic of conversation. However, usually when we think about cancer we think about the big ones like breast cancer, lung cancer, or brain cancer. We picture big serious tumors and crippling illness. However, the small cancerous tumors are just as critical. Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers are serious cancers that everyone should be informed about.
According to the American Cancer Society, Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer will develop in about 49,670 people in the United States in 2017, and of those people, 9,700 people will likely die as a result. While oral cancer is equally common across races, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as opposed to women.
Most often, oral cancer is found in the tongue, tonsil, oropharynx, and gum areas of the mouth, as well as on the floor and on other parts of the mouth. Nevertheless, the lips and other sites can still be spots where oral cancer develops. The biggest symptoms include consistent sores and pain in your mouth, difficulty in using your mouth for chewing and swallowing, a persistent sore throat, numbness of the tongue, and lumps or thickening in the cheeks as well as white or red patches throughout your mouth on the gums, tonsils, etc. Some signs can be as small and subtle as bad breath and constant irritation.
While genetics and other factors play a role in causing oral cancer, lifestyle is by far one of the biggest contributors. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the biggest culprits. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, about 80% of people with oral cancer use tobacco and about 70% of people diagnosed with oral cancer and heavy drinkers.
Other than making small lifestyle changes in alcohol and tobacco use, you can also reduce the likelihood of developing oral cancer by keeping up with your oral health by regularly seeing your dentist and periodically getting screened for oral cancer.
While the death rate for oral cancers have been decreasing over the past few years, education and prevention is still more important than ever to continue this trend. Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a great resource for additional information on symptoms and risk factors. For more information, be sure to contact your dentist.