Oral Cancer Risks Remain High in the U.S.

The recent death of well-known actor Larry Hagman has put oral cancer in the spotlight. Approximately 100 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States every day, and someone dies of oral cancer every single hour.

Almost 37,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the U.S. Because so many are diagnosed as late-stage cancers, only about half will be alive in five years.

Younger People at Risk

While oral cancer has historically been most likely to occur after age 50 and among tobacco users, the fastest growing segment of those diagnosed are nonsmokers between the ages of 25 and 50. Evidence shows that this group is linked to oral cancer through HPV or human papilloma virus.

More Women Diagnosed

In the past, 10 men were diagnosed with oral cancer for every women diagnosed. The ratio today is now is two men to one woman. This is believed to be due primarily to the use of tobacco and alcohol by women.

Contributing Factors

Research has identified a number of factors that may contribute to the development of oral cancer. Whether through cigarette smoking or use of the smokeless variety, tobacco consumption in any form remains the primary risk factor for oral cancer. If current trends continue, however, HPV may become the dominant cause of oral cancer by 2022.

Other factors may include poor oral hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition, and some chronic infections.

Importance of Early Detection

Regular dental check-ups, which incorporate oral cancer examinations, can reduce the death rate of this disease. The importance of early detection and an annual screening are the most crucial factors in the ultimate survival of oral cancer patients. With early detection, survival rates are high and the side effects from treatment are minimized.

Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

• Red and/or white discolorations of the soft tissues of the mouth
• Any sore which does not heal within two weeks
• Hoarseness which lasts for a prolonged period of time
• A sensation that something is stuck in your throat
• Numbness in the oral region
• Difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue
• Difficulty in swallowing
• Ear pain which occurs on one side only
• A sore under a denture, which even after an adjustment does not heal
• A lump or thickening which develops in the mouth or on the neck

As always, please call us if you have any concerns or questions. We’re here to help.

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