Even though oral cancers are rare, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and to remain diligent in performing self-checks.
Make sure you know what to look for when checking for these rare types of oral pathology and cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is defined as a malignancy of the mouth or pharynx, which is the medical term for the back of the throat.
These tumors only account for about 2 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States every year. Although this may not seem like a lot, it translates to about 42,000 people.
Of those 42,000 people, 8,000 will die as a result.
Who Is at Risk?
Those diagnosed with mouth cancer are often over 40, and men are affected twice as often as women. Other risk factors include:
- Diet — If you don’t eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, you may have an increased risk of developing these and other types of cancer.
- Tobacco or alcohol use — Smoking cigarettes or chewing or using tobacco in other ways put you at an increased risk for cancer, as does heavy alcohol use.
- Sun exposure — You can develop cancer of the lips if you don’t take measures to protect them from the damaging rays of the sun.
- HPV — This STD has been linked to some types of oral cancer, although the research is ongoing.
Types of Rare Oral Cancer
Rare oral cancers are commonly found in two main types:
- Oral malignant melanoma — This type of cancer originates in the cells called “melanocytes” that help to give skin its color.
- Mucoepidermoid carcinoma — This type of cancer develops in the salivary glands in your mouth.
Signs and Symptoms
Since tumors can grow on the tongue, mouth, lips, gums, salivary glands, tonsils or the back of the throat, keep an eye out in these areas for any of the following:
- White or red patches on your mouth or tongue
If you develop any of these symptoms, keep a close eye on the area. If the problem doesn’t disappear in two to three weeks, see a doctor or dentist — especially if you use tobacco or alcohol.
Early Detection is Key
When oral cancer does develop, early detection can save your life.
When caught early, pathology of the mouth and throat can be treated more successfully, and the prognosis improves significantly. For this reason, it’s important to have regular oral cancer screenings and to conduct your own monthly self-examination.
Contact our office today to schedule your screening. Our doctors can show you how to conduct your own exams at home, to ensure your ongoing oral health.
Make a resolution this year to be proactive in the prevention and detection of oral cancers and other dangerous diseases.