The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 10,030 deaths due to the oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers this year. This number is 3.402 percent higher than the 9,700 deaths estimated last year.
ACS also expects a higher number of cases of these cancers, jumping from 49,670 in 2017 to 51,540 in 2018. Of these cases, approximately 57 percent will be alive in five years following the diagnosis.
Although comparatively rare than other cancers, oral cancer still the 15th most common cancer in 2012 according to the World Cancer Research Fund International. This comprises 2.1 percent of all cancer cases recorded.
Still, those with localized oral cancer on the lip, meaning the cancer is contained, poses a 93 percent five-year relative survival rate. The percentage goes down, at 48 percent, as cancer spreads to nearby tissues and lymph nodes. Interestingly, the spread of cancer to distant sites has a higher five-year relative survival rate at 52 percent.
Meanwhile, the five-year relative survival rates of oral cancer in the tongue are at 78 percent, 63 percent, and 36 percent at local, regional, and distant stages, respectively.
Oral cancer in the floor of the mouth records a lower five-year survival rate than oral cancer in the lip and tongue. At the local stage, cancer in this area has only a 75 percent survival rate. There are far lower survival rates at the regional (38 percent) and distant stages (20 percent).
The average age of people with oral cancer is 62-years-old. However, the ACS does not dismiss the chance of cancer to occur in young people particularly below 55 years old. In fact, this group accounted more than a quarter of cases. Men remain more susceptible to developing oral cancer than women.
Also known as mouth cancer, oral cancer is a cancerous tissue growth at the oral cavity or the mouth. It can initially appear as a sore that does not go away. Oral cancer composes around 85 percent of all head and neck cancers.
Smoking, chewing tobacco, and excessive alcohol consumption are some risks of oral cancer. Additionally, a family history of cancer, human papillomavirus, and excessive sun exposure are other risk factors. Still, the absence of risk factors does not excuse people from developing cancer. After all, more than 25 percent of all oral cancers happen in individuals without smoking history and occasional alcohol intake.
Prominent figures who battled oral cancer include renowned film critic Roger Ebert who passed away in 2013. Ebert was diagnosed and received treatment for cancer in his salivary gland in 2003. Before this diagnosis, he was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. A cancerous tissue was removed near his right jaw in 2006, resulting in the film critic’s inability to speak.Oral cancer usually features swelling or the thickening of a part of the oral cavity like the lip. It also might include the appearance of lumps, bumps, rough spots, or eroded areas.
Velvety white, red, or white-and-red patches in the mouth can develop. Unexplained bleeding in the mouth may also be present. Inexplicable numbness in the face, mouth, or neck area are other potential symptoms.
Moreover, people with oral cancer can observe persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth. These can bleed easily and will not heal within two weeks. There may also be a painful sensation which may feel like something was caught in the back of the throat.
Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Trouble speaking or moving the jaw and tongue
- Achronic sore throat
- A change in voice
- Ear pain
- A change in the fit of the dentures
- Dramatic weight loss.
Oral cancer can be diagnosed during a routine dental exam. The dentist can feel for an indication of lumps or irregular changes in the tissues of the neck, head, face, and oral cavity. When a suspicious-looking area is present, a biopsy may be necessary to determine its makeup.
Early detection and early treatment of cancer are vital in increasing the chances of recovery. Treatment options include surgery to eradicate the cancerous growth. Other treatments include radiation therapy and chemotherapy to destroy traces of cancer cells that may have remained.