Oral Cancer – What is Oral Cancer

Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore that does not go away. Oral cancer â?? which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat) â?? can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.

The term oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth and the pharynx, part of the throat. About two-thirds of oral cancers occur in the mouth and about one-third are found in the pharynx. Oral cancer will be diagnosed in an estimated 28,000 Americans this year and will cause approximately 7,000 deaths. It is the 6th most common cancer in men and the 14th most common cancer in women.

Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx are diagnosed and over 8,000 deaths due to oral cancer occur. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is only about 50 percent. Mortality from oral cancer is nearly twice as high in some minorities (especially black males) as it is in whites. Methods used to treat oral cancers (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy) are disfiguring and costly. Preventing high risk behaviors, that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers. Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers.

Oral cancer can form in any part of the mouth or throat. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and in the floor of the mouth. Anyone can get oral cancer, but the risk is higher if you are male, over age 40, use tobacco or alcohol or have a history of head or neck cancer. Frequent sun exposure is also a risk for lip cancer. Smoking and other tobacco use are associated with 70-80% of oral cancer cases. Smoke and heat from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes irritate the mucous membranes of the mouth. Use of chewing tobacco or snuff causes irritation from direct contact with the mucous membranes. Heavy alcohol use is another high-risk activity associated with oral cancer.

Oral cancer is as common as leukemia and kills more Americans each year than either skin or cervical cancer. Patients with oral cancer have a poor prognosis, and the 5-year survival rate of approximately 50% has remained unchanged for the past 50 years. Perhaps the single most important reason for this is the fact that oral cancers continue to be diagnosed in advanced stages. Research studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the survival rate for oral cancer patients increases dramatically when the diagnosis is established in early stages.

Oral cancer can spread quickly, early detection is important. An oral cancer exam can identify early signs of this disease. The exam is quick and painless, and can be done during your regular dental check-up. Be sure to tell your dentist if you notice persistent changes in your mouth or throat, such as sores, swelling, or numbness, or if you have difficulty eating or swallowing.

Approximately 35,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Some 25 percent of those people will die of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer occurs almost as frequently as leukemia and claims more lives than melanoma or cervical cancer. Oral cancerâ??s incidence is rising among women, young people and non-smokers.

One Response to Oral Cancer – What is Oral Cancer

  1. Thomas A says:

    Just wondering about that. i think i have a canker sore but i am a worry wart and just wondering about oral cancer.

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