Cancer is a disease characterized by an abnormal growth and spread of malignant cells. It can set up home in any part of your body–some areas being more susceptible to it than others. While many types of cancer are often in the news–breast cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer for example–one that is often overlooked is oral cancer, but can be just as serious. Unfortunately, in the early stages, oral cancer is painless and therefore can go unnoticed.
As with many cancers the main thing to remember about oral cancer is that it can be cured if caught early and treated. As a matter of fact, oral cancer has one of the highest cure rates of cancers! This is why we perform an oral cancer screening at every dental hygiene (cleaning) appointment.
Dr. Donnelly is a member of the Board of Directors for the Jack T. Clark Foundation. Their mission is to improve the public’s oral health by promoting early detection and prevention of oral cancer in conjunction with the education of patients and healthcare providers. Oral cancer strikes an estimated 35,000 people annually in the United States. A person dies from oral cancer in the U.S. once every hour of every day. When detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer is 80-90%. Unfortunately, the majority of cases are detected as late stage cancer, and the survival rate is currently only 45%.
While everyone should be concerned, smokers and heavy drinkers have the highest incidence of oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco users also have a significantly higher risk. The best way to reduce your risk is to stop these harmful habits.
Everyone is different, but there are some common warning signs and symptoms of oral cancer. If you notice any of the following please contact your dentist for a screening immediately:
* A sore on your gums, lips, tongue or inside your cheek that doesn’t heal within two to three weeks.
* White, scaly patches inside your mouth or on your lips. The patch may have a “leathery” appearance.
* Any unusual swelling or lump in your mouth, neck, tongue or lips.
* An unexplained numbness or pain in your mouth or throat.
* Repeated oral bleeding with no apparent cause.