Oral and oropharyngeal cancer strike 45,000 people annually in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). That figure jumps to more than 450,000 when you consider new diagnoses worldwide.
Also called oral cavity cancer, oral cancer starts in the mouth; if the disease starts in the throat instead, it is referred to as oropharyngeal cancer.
Read on to learn more about this pervasive and potentially deadly disease.
Anyone can develop oral or oropharyngeal cancer, but research from the American Cancer Society (ACS) indicates that these cancers are more than twice as common in men as they are in women.
The average age at diagnosis is 62, but about 20 percent of cases occur in people who are younger than 55. In most cases, cancerous tissue is found in the tongue, tonsils, gums or the floor of the mouth.
Less often, it may be found in the lips or the minor salivary glands in the roof of the mouth. Data from the NCI has shown that approximately 1.1 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with one of these cancers during their lifetimes.
It may come as little surprise, but one of the biggest risk factors for developing oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer is tobacco use.
Use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco or snuff have all been linked to these types of cancer. In fact, according to the ACS, most people who develop these cancers use tobacco. The risk of developing any type of pathology increases with long-term use.
Drinking alcohol may also contribute to oral cancer.
The ACS says that roughly 70 percent of people diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer are heavy drinkers. Drinkers who also use tobacco have an even higher risk of getting these diseases — as much as 100 times greater than that of people who don’t use alcohol or tobacco.
Patients diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer have a 63.2 percent chance of surviving if they live with the disease at least five years, according to NCI research. Prognoses will vary, however, depending upon the stage of diagnosis.
Localized cancers, in which the cancerous tissue is confined to a primary site, have the greatest five-year survival rate at 83 percent. Regional cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes and distant cancers that have spread to other areas of the body have survival rates between 37.7 and 61.5 percent, depending upon factors such as the age and health of the patient and how effective treatment is.
Screening tests can be used to check for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, but conducting your own self-checks can lead to earlier detection and a greater chance for recovery.
Call Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah today to schedule your oral cancer screening, and to learn how to do self-checks.