Oral cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the mouth or throat, and most cancerous cells are found in the gums, cheek, the floor of the mouth, the hard and soft palate, the tongue, lips, sinuses, and throat.
Many forms of oral pre-cancer and cancer cells can be detected early thorough routine cancer screening checks by your dentist, hygienist, or physician. Some types of oral cancers can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck and then throughout the body’s systems. Early detection is vital to fighting oral cancer (2).
There are some factors that can increase the risk of developing oral cancer, such as tobacco use from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco and heavy consistent use of alcohol, and the two together have a greater risk. These risk factors can be changed by stopping tobacco and alcohol use.
Men have a greater chance of developing oral cancer than women and genetics can play a part in influencing the likelihood. Age is an important factor, especially after age 44 (2).
Common signs and symptoms are persistent mouth sores or pain, lumps in the cheek or throat, loosening teeth, voice changes, white or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining inside the mouth. There are 4 Stages of oral cancer with Stages 1 and 2 being the easiest to treat due to early discovery.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular dental checkups that include examination of the mouth, tongue, and throat as a good defense for early detection. Early screenings are easily completed at your dental or hygienist visits (2).
If something abnormal is noticed, further tests can be completed. For example, a biopsy brush may be used to collect cells for examination and this is a quick and painless test. If an abnormality is found, the skin or tumor can be removed and treatment from there will depend on the stage of cancer. Earlier detection generally means less treatment and a higher rate of recovery (1).