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Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth or throat. This year, an estimated 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and more than 10,900 will die of the disease. Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women.

Not using tobacco and not drinking alcohol in excess can prevent most oral cancer. However, one in four people diagnosed with oral cancer has no risk factors. It’s important to see your dentist regularly for screenings.

In 2012, there were nearly 40,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx diagnosed in the United States and nearly 9,000 deaths. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is about 59 percent. Mortality from oral cancer is nearly twice as high in some minorities (especially black males) as it is in whites. Preventing high risk behaviors, that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers. Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers. Oral human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease, can cause cancers in the back of the throat, called “oropharyngeal cancers.” More research is needed to determine whether HPV itself causes oropharyngeal cancers, or if other factors (such as smoking or chewing tobacco) interact with HPV to cause these cancers.

You might be at increased risk for oral cancer if you:

  • Are older than 55
  • Chew or smoke tobacco
  • Drink alcohol in excess
  • Are exposed to sunlight for long periods of time
  • Have a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Have an immune system that has been weakened by certain medications
  • Have the skin disease lichen planus, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) or certain inherited conditions of the blood 

Don’t wait for oral cancer symptoms to appear. Get screened according to guidelines. If you do notice any of the following symptoms, talk with your health care professional.

  • White or red patches on lips, gum, tongue or mouth lining
  • A lump which can be felt inside the mouth or on the neck
  • Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Hoarseness lasting a long time
  • Numbness or pain in any area of the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • A sore on the lips or in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • An earache that doesn’t go away

Oral cancer is a highly preventable disease and also very treatable, if caught early.

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form. If you use tobacco, quit.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman or two drinks per day if you’re a man
  • Stay out of the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm when sunlight is strongest
  • Always use lip balm with SPF 30 or higher
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Have an oral cancer screening by your dentist at your regular check-up.
  • Look at your mouth in a mirror once a month. If you see something different, tell your dentist.

Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and newer targeted therapies may be used alone or in combination.

Resources

Filter:

News | May 3, 2019 #VaccinesWork: Your best shot at cancer prevention
Event | Jan 22, 2019 HPV Awareness Week (Jan. 22-28)
News | Jan 18, 2019 Invest in Your Health – WTOP interviews Carolyn Aldige and Dr. Jim Mulshine of the Prevent Cancer Foundation
News | Aug 13, 2018 It’s time to observe National Immunization Awareness Month!
News | Jun 4, 2018 Take the pledge: Health care professionals commit to talking to patients about HPV and cancer
Video | Nov 7, 2017 Campaign Overview Video
News | Sep 14, 2017 Broadway star and Tony Award-winner wants you to Think About the Link® between viruses and cancer
Video | Sep 12, 2017 Marissa Jaret Winokur wants you to Think About the Link®
News | Aug 23, 2017 Vaccines can lower your cancer risk
News | Aug 8, 2017 Raising awareness in New York City
News | Apr 27, 2017 Why boys need the HPV vaccine, too
News | Apr 21, 2017 ICYMI: April 21, 2017
News | Oct 28, 2016 ICYMI: October 28, 2016
News | Sep 30, 2016 ICYMI: September 30, 2016
News | Sep 14, 2016 Hitting the road for cancer prevention and early detection
News | Aug 17, 2016 Do your kids have everything they need to start school?
News | Jul 1, 2016 ICYMI: July 1, 2016
News | Apr 22, 2016 Know Your Normal: Pay Attention to Changes in Your Body
News | Oct 1, 2015 Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Resources
News | Aug 19, 2015 National Immunization Awareness Month
News | Apr 23, 2012 HPV Cancers a Concern for Both Men and Women
News | Aug 25, 2010 Michael Douglas’ Throat Cancer Diagnosis Puts Focus On Risk Factors

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