April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer is a broad term which includes mouth cancer, tongue cancer, and even throat or tonsil cancer. Also included are cancers of the very back of the mouth (the oropharynx), as well as lip cancers on the exterior of the mouth. An estimated 45,750 people will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the U.S. Worldwide, 450,000 cases will be diagnosed annually.
Oral cancer will be newly diagnosed in about 115 Americans every day, and it’s a sad fact that a person dies from oral cancer each and every hour of every single day. With early detection, those cases caught in the first stage of development, there is an estimated 80 to 90 percent survival rate. But unfortunately, a majority of cases are found at the late stages, and that results in a high death rate of around 43% at five years from diagnosis. It also increases the likelihood of treatment-related morbidity as more aggressive treatment becomes necessary in the late stages. Lack of public awareness is a major factor in the frequency of late-stage diagnosis. So if you or a loved one experience any of the following symptoms, do not ignore them, get a screening immediately!
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
• Lumps, bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas, swellings or thickenings on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
• Velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
• Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
• Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
• Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
• A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
• Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
• Ear pain
• A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
• Dramatic weight loss
All routine exams at Mall of Georgia Dentistry include a basic visual oral cancer screening, and we are also able to perform many other types of screening for cases of special concern. Early detection is an important part of beating oral cancer and stopping it in its tracks, so be aware of the warning signs and act right away!