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5 Facts About Oral Cancers

Word of Mouth on Oral Cancer — The Hard Facts

This year, 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer or oropharyngeal cancer. Oral cancers include those present in the mouth or back of the throat and have many causes and symptoms. Types of oral cancer include:

  • Lip Cancer: Occurring anywhere on the lower, upper, or inner lip, this type of cancer is typically caused by squamous cell carcinomas. A tumor develops in squamous cells (cells found in the tissue under the skin's surface).
  • Cheek Cancer: Also called buccal mucosa cancer, cheek cancer is also classified as a squamous cell carcinoma. When cells in the inner cheek multiply at too fast of a rate, tumors or lesions grow.
  • Jaw Cancer: Jaw cancer, though rare, can be life-threatening. This form of cancer begins in the oral cavity and often spreads through the jaw.
  • Palate Cancer: Palate cancer occurs as hard palate cancer or soft palate cancer. Hard palate cancer starts in the bony part of the roof of the mouth. Soft palate cancer occurs right behind the top teeth.
  • Tongue Cancer: Tongue cancer can occur in the mouth or the throat. This cancer is commonly associated with HPV.

Raising awareness of the disease can contribute to the prevention of oral cancer. In light of Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April, here are five facts on oral cancer causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.

The highest risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco and alcohol use.

While numerous risk factors and causes are associated with oral cancers, tobacco and alcohol abuse rank at the top. Why is this?

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) explains that when combined, alcohol enhances the effects of tobacco. Alcohol increases the production of enzymes in tobacco tar into carcinogens, while excessive drinking also reduces the immune system.

Other risk factors and causes of oral cancers include excessive sun exposure and HPV (human papillomavirus).

Gender and age matter.

According to a study done by Cancer.Net, an entity of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, men are almost twice as likely to develop a type of oral cancer. An estimated 38,800 men will be diagnosed with oral cancer, as opposed to 15,210 women this year.

That same study suggests that the typical age of oral cancer diagnosis is 62. Seventy-five percent of oral cancer cases occur in patients older than 55.

There are more than five symptoms of oral cancer.

Oral cancers sometimes come with no symptoms besides a sore on the mouth or lips that persists for two weeks or more. Other symptoms of oral cancers are:

  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Earaches
  • Halitosis (chronic bad breath)
  • Tenderness on the face, throat, or neck

It is important to routinely screen for oral cancers.

Are you checking your mouth for cancer at least once a month? If you suspect you have any form of oral cancer, you can perform a self-examination at home. To do this, watch the Mouth Cancer Foundation Self Examination tutorial.

To receive an official oral cancer diagnosis, you will need to see a dental professional. Even without symptoms, Austell Dental Associates will perform an oral examination during your bi-annual dental check-up.

This quick oral cancer screening is a regular part of preventative care and may include a thorough examination of your gums, cheeks, tongue, teeth, and throat entry.

Your dentist may recommend further diagnostic tests or biopsies to confirm or deny oral cancer diagnosis if any abnormalities show.

Treatment for oral cancers is dependent on the detection stage.

Oral cancer spreads quickly. Because of this, early detection is crucial. Treatment options for oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancer are highly dependent on when the cancer is detected and what stage the patient has.

The top treatment for early-stage oral cancer involves surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes and tumors. Surgical procedures may include a glossectomy, mandibulectomy, or maxillectomy.

No matter the detection stage, other treatment options for oral cancers are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy via medication, and keeping your oral hygiene and nutrition healthy.

Protect Your Smile at Austell Dental Associates

We are here for when you need it at Austell Dental Associates. Contact us online or call our office at (770) 467-3888 to schedule an appointment for your oral hygiene and prevention, restorative dentistry, or cosmetic dentistry needs.


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