Did you know that April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month? The Oral Cancer Foundation tells us that nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 57% will live longer than five years. Often, this type of cancer goes unnoticed by the patient until it has progressed to later stages. While smoking and alcohol consumption have long been known as risk factors, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer among young non-smokers has steadily increased due to HPV16 — the same virus that causes more than 90% of all cervical cancers.
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms
The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:
- Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth and wart-like masses and mouth sores that do not heal.
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing.
- Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from the oral cavity.
- Distortion of any of the senses or numbness in the oral or facial areas.
- Sore throat, hoarseness or ear pain.
- Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, or shifting teeth.
Ask us about oral cancer screenings!
Thankfully, having regular oral cancer screenings is the best way to detect oral cancer in its early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. The Check Your Mouth website offers guidance on doing self-examinations in between dental visits, but having a qualified professional examine your mouth for signs of problems is vitally important. Be sure to ask us about oral cancer screenings at your next checkup!