The American Cancer Society has estimated 10,030 deaths due to the oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers this year, a number 3.402 percent higher compared to 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 ranked as the 15th most common cancers in 2012 by the World Cancer Research Fund International, comprising 2.1 percent of all cancer cases recorded.
Still, those with oral cancer in the lip at the local stage, meaning the cancer is contained in the area where it started, 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 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 lower five-year relative survival rate than oral cancer in the lip and tongue. At the local stage, cancer in this area has only 75 percent survival rate and far lower survival rates at regional (38 percent) and distant stages (20 percent).
The average age of people who were diagnosed with oral cancer is at 62 years old. However, ACS does not dismiss the chance of cancer to occur in young people particularly below 55 years old who 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 which 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, excessive alcohol consumption, a family history of cancer, human papillomavirus, and excessive sun exposure are considered risk factors in the development of oral cancer. Still, the absence of risk factors does not excuse people from developing cancer as more than 25 percent of all oral cancers happen to 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 to the film critic’s inability to speak.Oral cancer is usually indicated by swelling or thickening of a part of the oral cavity like the lip and the appearance of lumps, bumps, rough spots, or eroded areas.
Velvety white, red, or white and red patches in the mouth can develop, as well as, unexplained bleeding in the mouth. Inexplicable numbness in the face, mouth, or neck area can also be experienced.
Moreover, people with oral cancer can observe persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth which can bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks. There may also be a painful feeling which may feel like something was caught in the back of the throat.
Other symptoms may include: difficulty chewing and swallowing, difficulty speaking or moving the jaw and tongue, a chronic sore throat, change in voice, ear pain, change in the fit of the dentures or teeth, and dramatic weight loss.
Oral cancer can be diagnosed during a routine dental exam where the dentist can feel indication of lumps or irregular changes in the tissues of the neck, head, face, and oral cavity. When a suspicious-looking area is detected, a biopsy may be required to determine its makeup.
Early detection and early treatment of the cancer are vital in increasing the chances of recovery. Treatment options include surgery to eradicate the cancerous growth and radiation therapy and chemotherapy to destroy traces of cancer cells that may have remained.
Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.