Editor’s Note: The Medtopicwriter team proudly welcomes guest contributor, +Joseph Stan is a world renowned cosmetic and general Beverly Hills dentist in Beverly Hills California. His studies and experience make him a premier choice for dental patients looking for dental implants, dental veneers, laser teeth cleaning, and many other cosmetic and restorative dental procedures.
The month of April marks Oral Cancer Awareness Month in the United States of America. It may surprise you to learn that it has done so for the last 13 years – since 1999. Another thing that may surprise you is the rapidly rising problem of oral cancer in the U.S. Oral cancer cases increase each year; the best chance for survival is early detection and the best chance of early detection is awareness.
Just what is oral cancer?
Physicians and dentists consider any cancer occurring in and around the mouth – including the tongue, lips, tonsils, sinuses, throat, and gums – oral cancer. Each day in the United States, over 99 people receive a diagnosis of cancer of the mouth. All added up, this totals over 36,000 new oral cancer cases diagnosed each and every year. The total number of cases in 2007 increased by 11% over 2006 numbers and with no known cause for this disturbing increase.
Fortunately, the survival rate, for those whose oral cancer gets detected early, can reach over 80%. Unfortunately, for cases detected in the more advanced, later stages, the survival rate falls to around 50%. Clearly, early detection is critical, and the best way to increase detection is to increase awareness of this disease. Building awareness to increase incidence of early detection represents the main idea behind Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
So what leads to cancer of the mouth?
Good news: the majority of oral cancer cases have well-known and preventable causes. The leading causes of oral cancer in order include tobacco use, alcohol use, the HPV virus, and exposure to sunlight for the lips and outer areas.
Tobacco figured as a cause in about 74% of cases diagnosed. This includes smoking cigars, chewing tobacco, and cigarettes. The next leading cause is alcohol. When the body breaks down alcohol, it turns it into acetaldehyde, which research shows to cause cancer in humans. Please note that studies have not shown mouthwash that contains alcohol to cause mouth cancer, but points to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Interestingly, studies indicate that using tobacco and alcohol in combination significantly increases the incidence of mouth cancers. The third leading cause of oral cancer is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection.
All cases beyond these leading causes (5%) are thought to develop due to a genetic predisposition in the patient.
Avoid developing oral cancer
To avoid developing oral cancer, do not smoke, do not drink alcohol in excess, and use a lip balm containing sunscreen, such as Chapstick® or avoid sun exposure altogether. Also, schedule regular cancer screenings with your health care provider and seek medical attention if you have any of the symptoms or warning signs below for more than 14 days.
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
See your dental specialist or physician about any skin lesion, lump, or ulcer that does not resolve within 14 days and appears on the tongue, lip, or other mouth areas.
Oral cancer lesions often exhibit the following characteristics:
- Usually small
- Most often pale in color, but may be dark or discolored
- Early signs may appear as a white patch (leukoplakia) or a red patch (erythroplakia) on the soft tissues of the mouth
- Usually painless – initially
- May develop and cause a burning sensation or even pain when the tumor becomes advanced
Additional symptoms, possibly associated with this disease:
- Tongue problems
- Swallowing difficulty
- Mouth sores
- Pain and paraesthesia represent late-stage symptoms
Sound off on the Bleeding Edge™: Share your experiences and any questions with Dr. Stan below.
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