First and foremost, we here at Dr. Pan's office would like to take a moment to offer our sincerest condolences to all those currently affected by oral cancer and to those that have lost a loved one to this vicious disease.
- Oral Cancer is a growing problem in America, especially among men.
- Men account for 2/3 of new diagnosis.
- About 50,000 people will be diagnosed in 2018.
- Of those, only about half will live past 5 years.
- There is a growing number of cases not linked to traditional risk-factors such as alcohol or tobacco use.
- Early detection is vital to a good long term prognosis
What is causing it?
Cases of mouth and throat cancer has increased 300% in the last 20 years! There are a number of risk factors associated with Oral and Oropharyngeal(head and neck) cancers. One of the leading causes continues to be tobacco use, especially chew or snuff, causing oral cavity cancers. In addition, alcohol use increases your susceptibility, as well as age, diet low in fruits and vegetables, genetics(family history), and HPV infection. HPV, the same infectious disease that causes cervical cancer in women, has been linked to Oral and Oropharyngeal cancer. There are now more HPV related oral cancer cases than new HPV related cervical cancer cases! While cervical cancer can only be diagnosed in women, the vast majority of new oral cancer cases caused by HPV are in men. According to new research, the immune system of men is much more susceptible to the virus.
What can be done?
As mentioned above, early detection is paramount to a good prognosis. Survival rates for early stage cancer are pretty good. Caught in stage 1 or 2, before the cancer has spread, 5 year survival rate is around 82%. If the cancer has spread throughout the body, the 5 year survival rate drops significantly, only about 39% of people live past 5 years. In the health care system, the only regular oral cancer screenings available are at your dentist. Usually performed by the Dentist, or Dental Hygienist, Oral Cancer Screenings are integral to your overall health, and you should have a screening at least once a year. If you are at a higher risk, such as smokers, men, and people over 40, it may be better to have it done at every 6 month check up. There is also new non-invasive technology, such as the VelScope, that can aid dental professionals in early detection. The VelScope is used in our office, it uses special wavelength high intensity blue light to detect abnormal tissue in the cheeks, tongue, throat, and gums that could be cancer or other infections that may not be visible to the naked eye. It is an invaluable tool that we have invested in to help fight this disease.
Treatment and Warning Signs
Similar to other cancers, Oral and Oropharyngeal cancer is treated with surgery and radiation, sometime chemotherapy for more advanced cases. Unlike other cancers however there is a higher risk of a change in your appearance due to the surgery removing a part of your mouth or throat. Unfortunately, the cancer can progress quite far without any noticeable signs or symptoms. Many people do not know they have it until it is stage 3 or 4 and requiring intensive treatment to give them a fighting chance. If you do experience one of these warning signs, make an appointment with your dentist immediately. If available, also ask for the VelScope or a related device to aid in the diagnosis.
- Persistent sore throat
- Change in voice
- New lump in cheeks or tongue
- White or red spot in gums, tongue, cheeks or throat
- Difficulty chewing or swollowing
- Swelling in the jaw
- Ear pain
- Bleeding, pain or numbness of the mouth
If you or someone you love is at risk or experiencing one of these symptoms please contact us today.
As always, post questions or comments below, and we will respond as soon as possible.