Despite an increasing awareness of the risk factors, oral cancer remains one of the ten most frequently occurring cancers worldwide. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 50,000 adults across the United States alone will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. Since many signs and symptoms of oral cancer mimic lesions that often go away on their own, or are not at all painless, you may be unaware of its presence. At the office of Hunterdon Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Specialists, our oral and maxillofacial surgeon has both the comprehensive knowledge and advanced specialty training to assess and biopsy questionable tissue changes as well as any unusual growths that might be indicative of oral cancer or other harmful conditions.
While oral cancer can occur anywhere in and around the mouth, it is usually detected on the lips, inside the lips and cheeks, the gums, the tongue or on the floor or roof of the mouth. If cancer is found further back in the oral cavity, it’s referred to as oropharyngeal cancer, or throat cancer. Keeping in mind, that many forms of oral and oropharyngeal cancer go undetected for quite some time, it’s important to know the risk factors as well as the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Some of the signs and symptoms to be on the look out for include:
- Mouth ulcers or sores that do not heal
- Lumps or thickened areas
- Red or white patches
- Persistent swelling of unknown origin
- Pain when swallowing, a painful tongue or a continuing ear or neck ache
- A constant feeling that something is stuck in the throat
- Tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips
- Loose teeth
- Jaw pain or stiffness
Who is most at risk?
Even though oral cancer can affect any gender, men are twice as likely to develop the disease as women. Statistics indicate that men over the age of 50 who are heavy smokers and drink alcohol constitute the highest risk group. Other contributing factors include UV exposure from the sun or sunlamps, the presence of gastro-intestinal reflux disease (GERD), a history of previous head and neck radiation, along with exposure to certain chemicals or a poor diet. It’s also worth noting that despite the fact the mortality rate from cancer has been declining, there’s been a rise in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer due to an increase in sexual transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
By far, the most important thing about oral cancer is to be aware. Thanks to significant inroads in research as well as the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in recent decades, with early detection, more and more people are experiencing positive outcomes of care.
At the office of Hunterdon Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Specialists, we’re dedicated to providing the highest quality of skilled and compassionate care. For more information on our office and the many services that we provide, give us a call today.