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What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

Did you know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month? 

It is estimated that over 58,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed this year, with 11 in every 100,000 people being affected. Of those patients, 37 percent will not live longer than five years, and many survivors face long-term issues like severe facial disfigurement or significant trouble eating and speaking. Because oral cancer is often discovered late in their existence, the death rate remains notably high. Fortunately, if it is diagnosed and treated early, survival rates increase.

For today’s blog post, let’s take a closer look at oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, and consider how it impacts your body as well as its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. 

As the most common form of head and neck cancer, it usually impacts people ages 60 and older. It can affect the parts of your oral cavity, including your lips, gum, cheek linings, the first two-thirds of your tongue, the floor of your mouth, the first part of the roof of your mouth, and the area right behind your wisdom teeth. 

It may look like other common problems in your mouth — like white or red patches or bleeding sores. The primary difference with potential cancer is that it won’t heal itself. Other symptoms include:

  • Sores on your lips or inside your mouth that don’t heal within two weeks
  • Crusty areas or rough spots on your lips, gums, and other areas of your mouth
  • Areas that bleed for no clear reason
  • Unexpected numbness, pain, or tenderness in your mouth or on your face and neck
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing, which often leads to unintentional weight loss
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue or even speaking
  • Earaches
  • Chronic bad breath

If left untreated, oral cancer can spread throughout your mouth and throat and to your head and neck. 

So what causes oral cancer?

Oral cancer begins in the squamous cells of your oral cavity. These cells become cancerous when their DNA shifts and they begin growing and multiplying.

When it comes to lifestyle choices, around 75 percent of patients who develop oral cancer practice some or all of the following habits:

  • Smoking, either cigarettes, cigars, or pipes
  • Using smokeless tobacco products, like dip, snuff, water pipes, or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Spending too much time in the sun without proper sun protection on their lips

They may also have human papillomavirus (HPV) or a family history of oral cancer. 

Your dentist may identify potential oral cancer during your biannual appointment.

To follow-up to their physical examination, they may complete preliminary tests, like a brush biopsy or incisional biopsy, or refer you to a specialist.

The three primary treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In order to determine the best approach, your healthcare provider will consider the kind of oral cancer you have, its spreading so far, your overall health, and your age.


Call us at 407.834.0330 to schedule your appointment today! Check out our Dental Blog to learn more about topics like restorative dentistry, dental anxiety, and more.