A diagnosis of oral cancer strikes fear in the hearts of patients and their families. Unfortunately, this disease remains all too common. The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that about 49,750 people in the United States will be stricken with oral or oropharyngeal cancer in 2017.
Patients diagnosed with oral carcinoma often have many questions regarding their treatment options. And although some prefer not to discuss survival statistics, many patients want to know more about their prognosis.
Patients often ask whether oropharyngeal malignancy is curable. Unfortunately, no complete cure (as such) yet exists, for this or any other type of cancer. However, for many patients, this disease can be successfully treated.
Oral Cancer Is Highly Treatable when Caught Early Enough
As with other types of cancer, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is treatable when caught during its initial stages.
Patients diagnosed with local carcinoma have the best chance for a positive outcome. Or, in other words, if the cancerous area has not progressed beyond where it started (in the tongue, tonsils, gums, lips or another part of the mouth) and, it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby tissues, treatments have a high likelihood of destroying the cancer cells.
Prior to beginning treatment, we may need to address any dental health issues you may have. Resolving infection and stabilizing or extracting unhealthy teeth helps prevent many complications that can result from cancer treatment.
Advanced Stage Oral Cancer Can Be Treated
Regional carcinomas that have spread to nearby tissues or the lymph nodes, and distant cancers that have metastasized to other organs can be more difficult to treat. However, patients with advanced pathology can still have a positive outcome.
Every patient is different, and no statistics can determine individual prognosis. Likewise, no medical or dental professional can know whether treatment will be successful, no matter what stage the cancer is in. Cancer survivability knows no absolutes or definitive rules.
The best way to help ensure a positive outcome is to be proactive with your oral health.
Practice Oral Cancer Prevention
Scientists don’t yet have the answers about what causes oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. However, avoiding certain risk factors can reduce your chances of developing this disease.
Avoid tobacco, and enjoy alcohol in moderation, if at all. Sun protection is essential, as exposure can lead to oropharyngeal cancer. Apply sunscreen to your face and neck regularly, and use a protective lip balm whenever you are outside. Note: harmful UV rays aren’t deterred by cloud cover, so follow this advice whether the sun is out or not.
Schedule a professional oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer evaluation at least once per year. Twice is better, and the examinations can be combined with your regular dental or oral surgeon visit. Regular dental health exams can detect early warning signs, making the disease easier to treat.
Finally, conduct an oral cancer self-check at least once each month. If you notice anything unusual, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. The chances of it being pathological are small, but we never want to take chances with your oral health.
Here at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah, we are highly experienced in the diagnosis and treatment a wide variety of oral health conditions. Call our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to schedule your exam and screening for oral cancer.