Oral cancer accounted for approximately three percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2017, or about 49,700 new cases. Oral cancer can spread quickly, so early detection can increase your survival rate.
What are some of the symptoms of oral cancer?
- A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in your mouth, lip, or throat
- A feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
- Swelling in your jaw
- Numbness in your tongue or other areas of your mouth
- Pain in one ear without hearing loss
Since some of the symptoms might mimic other illnesses, such as a cold or sinus congestion, it’s important to recognize that if these symptoms last longer than a few weeks, you should seek medical advice.
What are the known risks?
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarette smoking, puts you at risk for developing oral cancers. Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk. Quitting smoking and drinking can help improve your overall health, as well.
- HPV. Infection with the human papillomavirus (more specifically HPV-16) has been linked to oral cancers.
- Age. Like most cancers, your risk increases with age. Oral cancers most often occur in people over the age of 40.
- Sun Exposure. Cancer of the lip may be caused by prolonged sun exposure. Using a lip balm with SPF can help reduce your risk.
Having regular checkups with your dentist will help ensure any changes in your health can be caught at its earliest stages. The earlier oral cavity and pharynx cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving.