How much do you know about oral cancer?
Also known as oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, this potentially deadly disease can affect anyone. In observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the American Dental Association encourage everyone to learn more and be proactive about oral health.
Oral Cancer Facts
While some people believe that oral cancer is rare, that is not the case.
Roughly 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. That translates to about 136 new cases every day. And, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), this number has been on the rise for over a decade.
Even scarier, about 9,000 people die each year as a result of this disease. Or, to put it another way, that’s one death every hour of every day.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Anyone can develop this deadly disease. But certain risk factors can increase your chances. For instance, these cancers are twice as common in men as they are in women.
Tobacco use in any form — including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chew, snuff and smokeless tobacco — boosts your risk. Regular alcohol consumption has the same effect, particularly when used in combination with tobacco products.
Certain genetic and medical conditions and infectious diseases can also increase the probability of getting the disease. Exposure to sunlight without protection, poor nutrition, poor oral hygiene and physical trauma to the head, neck or jaw area may also play a part in some cases of carcinoma.
One of the biggest risk factors, however, is exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV16), the same virus that is responsible for many cases of cervical cancer in women. The OCF says that because of the HPV virus, young, healthy nonsmokers are the fastest growing segment of oral carcinoma patients.
Early Detection Saves Lives
The earlier oral carcinoma is diagnosed, the better the chances for successful treatment. In fact, the reason for the high mortality rate is because the disease is often not discovered until its later stages.
Conducting a monthly self-examination at home can help detect the disease early. Using a mirror and a flashlight, look for lesions, bumps and textural or color changes in the mouth tissues.
Regular professional examinations are also important, even for patients who don’t fit in the high-risk categories. As the prevalence of these cancers is increasing, routine screenings could help catch more cases in the early, treatable stages. And while you’re here, our oral surgeons can show you exactly what to look for and how to conduct self-examinations.
Dr. Maxfield and Dr. Partridge of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of oral pathology of all types. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to schedule your oral cancer screening.