Oral Cancer Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Oral Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Oral cancer is a general term used to describe cancer that affects the mouth including lips, cheeks, hard and soft palate, tongue, the floor of the mouth, throat, or sinuses. If caught and treated early, the 5-year survival rate is 84%- this drops to 65% if it spreads to nearby organs, tissues, and lymph nodes.

HollowBrook Dental can help identify symptoms early with our routine screenings during your regular checkups.  Typically, it is caught and diagnosed during routine dental checkups. We strive to implement the latest in dental technology to ensure the best results for our patients.

In this article, we’ll explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments for oral cancer.

Common Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

The two highest risk factors for developing oral cancer are smoking and alcohol consumption. Research indicates that smokers are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers and those who use smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely than those who do not to develop oral cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption increases your risk of developing oral cancer by 6 times.

Men over the age of 50 are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer, possibly because they engage in the above behaviors more often than women. A family history of cancer or past diagnosis increases your risk of developing oral cancer. Typically, oral cancer takes years to manifest, with most people discovering it after age 50. However, more younger males are developing it due to HPV.

Excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun can increase your risk of developing oral cancer, especially lip cancer.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is one of the major risk factors for men under the age of 50 who are sexually active. The more partners you engage with, the higher your risk.

Finally, some research indicates that not eating enough fruits and vegetables can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

Common Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The most obvious indication that you may have oral cancer is growths in the mouth and/or throat area, such as:

  • Leukoplakia: flat white/gray patches in your mouth/throat
  • Erythroplakia: red patches, may be flat or slightly raised, and may bleed when scraped
  • Erythroleukoplakia: red and white patches

Other signs/symptoms include:

  • Sores on lips/mouth that don’t heal within 2 weeks and bleed easily
  • Rough, crusty areas on lips, gums, inside of cheeks, etc
  • Bleeding inside the mouth with no apparent cause
  • Numbness, tenderness, or pain in the mouth or on face/neck that occurs with no clear cause
  • Difficulty moving jaw/tongue, chewing/swallowing, or talking
  • Earache
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Constant bad breath

Treating Oral Cancer

If caught and treated early, the survival rate is high. Therefore, if you have any of the above signs and symptoms, it’s important to schedule a dental check-up as soon as possible.

There are three primary treatment options for oral cancer, depending on your age, the type of cancer you have, your overall health, and whether or not it has spread to other areas of your body. These are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

There are several surgical options, including:

  • Primary tumor surgery
  • Glossectomy
  • Mandibulectomy
  • Maxillectomy
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Neck dissection
  • Reconstruction

Other treatment options, often combined with surgery, includes:

Schedule Your Consultation Today

If you have any of the signs/symptoms listed here, schedule your consultation today with the team at HollowBrook Dental. We use the latest dental technology to identify oral cancer and other oral issues. When caught and treated early, the prognosis for survival is high. If the cancer has spread, the survival rate is slightly lower.

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