While the consumption of alcohol or tobacco can dramatically increase the risk of contracting oral cancer, 25% of reported cases involve people don’t drink or smoke on a regular basis. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams once every three years for people over 20 and once every 12 months for people over 40. The sooner the disease is detected, the greater the odds are that it can be treated successfully.
Before the end of this year, more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer. Approximately 7,500 of them will lose their lives to this insidious disease; that’s a higher fatality rate than melanoma or cervical cancer. Symptoms include unexplained swelling, lumps or bumps on the lips, gums or other parts of the mouth; persistent sores, bleeding, numbness or tenderness in the mouth, face or neck; difficulty chewing or swallowing; and recurring soreness in the throat.
If a screening reveals the presence of oral cancer, our oral surgeon will carefully review the alternatives available to combat the disease before it does any further damage; depending upon how far the cancer has spread, they may include surgery to remove tumors in the mouth or neck, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.