When found early, oral cancer patients have an 80 to 90 % survival rate. Unfortunately 40% of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years because the majority of these cases will be discovered as a late stage malignancy.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous, because the patient may not notice it in its early stages. It can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms. As a result, Oral Cancer often goes undetected until it has already metastasized to another location.
Who is most at risk for oral cancer?
People who use tobacco are six times more likely to develop oral cancer. Eight of 10 oral cancer patients are smokers. Heavy alcohol drinkers are also more at risk. 80% of people diagnosed with oral cancer consumer more than 21 drinks weekly. Finally people with a history of oral human papilloma virus infections are at greater risk to develop oral cancer even if they don’t smoke or drink.
What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
Red or white patches in or behind the mouth
Mouth sores or ulcers that bleed easily and do not heal
Unexplained lump in the neck, throat or floor of the mouth
Difficulty or discomfort swallowing
Pain and tenderness in teeth or gums
Change in the fit of dentures or partial dentures
Visible change in mouth tissue
Unpleasant sensations (pain, discomfort, numbness)
Diminished ability to perform normal functions such as opening jaw, chewing or swallowing
Unexplained swelling or fullness in neck
How can you prevent oral cancer?
The American Cancer Society recommends a comprehensive oral evaluation and soft tissue exam annually, yet only one in five patients reports having an oral cancer exam in the last year. Your prosthodontist is trained to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your mouth including the associated structures in the head and neck area.