Oral Cancer Awareness

Each April, most of the nation’s top dental associations join together with the Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness for oral and oropharyngeal cancers (cancer of the back of the oral cavity and upper throat).

This year an estimated 54,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. Of those individuals, 43 percent will not survive longer than five years, and many who do survive suffer long-term problems, such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties with eating and speaking. 

Historically, those at an especially high risk of developing oral cancer have been heavy drinkers and smokers older than age 50.   Today the cancer also is occurring more frequently in nonsmoking people due to HPV16, the virus most commonly associated with cervical cancer. Most people who get an oral HPV infection will never go on to develop the cancer.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer which is predominantly caused by tobacco usage and/or excessive alcohol usage may include one or more of the following:

  • Any sore or ulceration that does not heal within 14 days.
  • A red, white, or black discoloration of the soft tissues of the mouth.
  • Any abnormality that bleeds easily when touched (friable).
  • A lump or hard spot in the tissue, usually border of the tongue (induration).
  • Tissue raised above that which surrounds it; a growth (exophytic).
  • A sore under a denture, which even after adjustment of the denture, does not heal.
  • A lump or thickening that develops in the mouth.
  • A painless, firm, fixated lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks.

All the above symptoms have the commonality of being persistent and not resolving.

Signs and symptoms of HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer may include one or more of the following (which may persist longer than two-three weeks):

  • Hoarseness or sore throat that does not resolve within a few weeks.
  • A swollen tonsil on just one side. This is usually painless.
  • A painless, firm, fixated lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks.
  • A persistent cough that does not resolve after many days.
  • Difficulty swallowing: a sensation that food is getting caught in your throat.
  • An earache on one side (unilateral) which persists for more than a few days.

All the above symptoms have the commonality of being persistent and not resolving.

Always call your dentist or oral surgeon right away if there are any concerns.

Information obtained from https://www.dentistrytoday.com/oral-cancer-awareness-month-starts-in-april/

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