This year alone, oral cancer will take the life of one American every hour of every day. That equates to over 43,000 deaths. The high death toll is due, in part, to late discovery of the disease – it’s often not found until after it has spread. Early detection of oral cancer can save lives. Boerne TX dentist Dr. Luigi Massa performs oral cancer screenings at the initial exam for new patients and at every 6-month checkup. Here, he provides information on the symptoms of and risk factors for oral cancer to help you minimize your risk of developing this devastating disease.
Oral Cancer: The Where and the Who
Oral cancer is included in a group of cancers that impact the head and neck. It can occur on the lips, cheeks, tongue, roof of mouth, floor of mouth, sinuses, and throat. It’s a stealthy disease, often producing no pain or easily recognizable symptoms.
Most oral cancer sufferers are over the age of 40 at first diagnosis. However, a trend toward oral cancer impacting younger people has been noted. This cancer affects twice as many men as women, and twice as many blacks as whites.
Oral Cancer Symptoms
The symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Unexplained oral bleeding
- A swollen area or lump in the mouth
- Rough or crusty tissue
- White, red, or white and red patches that have a velvety appearance
- Oral sores that haven’t healed after two weeks
- A hoarse voice
- Pain in the ear
- Feeling that something is stuck in the throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- A change in denture fit or bite alignment
- Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw
- A chronic sore throat
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Lifestyle habits remain the primary cause of oral cancer in all populations impacted, including:
- Tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Excessive sun exposure, especially during childhood
- Family history of oral cancer