Oral cancer starts inside the mouth, or the oral cavity, while oropharyngeal cancer originates in the throat. Both can compromise your ability to breathe, eat and talk. But when caught in the early stages, both can be successfully treated.
Are you at risk for developing oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer? The following statistics and facts can give you an idea of your chances of diagnosis with one of these potentially life-threatening diseases.
The American Cancer Society says that roughly 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2019. For an estimated 10,860 patients, the disease will prove fatal.
Oral cancer can affect anyone, but men are nearly twice as likely as women to develop the disease. The average age of diagnosis is 62, and both oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer are rare in children. However, that isn’t to say younger people aren’t at risk — a little over one-fourth of all cases occur in patients under the age of 55.
Some people who are diagnosed with oral cancer have no known risk factors, and others who are at greater risk never go on to develop the disease. But certain lifestyle factors increase the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis. These include:
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- HPV infection
In addition, certain genetic syndromes and a family history of the disease boost the possibility of a diagnosis.
The earlier oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer is detected and treated, the greater the odds of survival. Localized cancers can be successfully treated 60 to 93 percent of the time, depending upon the specific area of origination. For diseases that have spread to the lymph nodes or nearby tissues, the survival rate falls to between 38 and 66 percent. When oral cancer spreads to distant sites, treatment stands up to a 52 percent chance of success.
For some patients, oral cancer causes no noticeable symptoms. Nonetheless, experts recommend performing monthly self-exams, checking for the following warning signs:
- Discolored patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils or mouth tissues
- Lumps or thickened areas in the cheeks, lips or mouth
- Asymmetry in the mouth, face or neck
- Sores that don’t seem to be healing
Persistent pain in the mouth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, trouble moving the tongue or jaw and loosening teeth may also point to oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
All these signs and symptoms can have other causes, but if any lasts for more than two weeks, scheduling a professional oral cancer screening is a must. For an expert evaluation in the greater Salt Lake City area, turn to the professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, have extensive experience diagnosing and treating oral cavity cancer and oropharyngeal cancer. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office and schedule a professional oral cancer screening today.