Update on the Fight Against Oral Cancer
Every April, the Oral Cancer Foundation launches a major awareness program to make sure as many people as possible are aware of the disease and what can be done to fight against it. In this article, we’ll help support this cause by providing some up-to-date facts and figures.
Many types of tumors can grow in the oral cavity and the oropharynx (the part of the throat just behind the mouth). They fall into three general categories: benign, pre-cancerous, and cancerous. The most common type of mouth cancer is called squamous cell carcinomas. According to The American Cancer Society (ACS), 9 out of every 10 cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx fall into this category.
The cancerous tumors appear most in the tongue, the tonsils, the oropharynx, the gums, and the floor of the mouth. The ACS says the average age of most people diagnosed with oral cancer is 62, but they can occur in young people. They are rare in children, but a little more than one-quarter occur in patients younger than 55.
Key Estimates for 2015
According to the ACS:
- 39,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.
- About 7,500 people will die from it.
- These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. They are about equally common in blacks and in whites.
Key Risk Factors
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons says 25% of oral cancer patients had no known risk factors before developing the disease. However, the ACS claims most people with this cancer use tobacco. Plus, it says 7 out of 10 patients are heavy drinkers. When heavy drinking and smoking are combined, some studies have shown the risk increases 100 times compared to someone who doesn’t drink or smoke.
A rising risk factor continues to be the human papilloma virus (HPV). DNA for this sexually transmitted virus is now found in about 2 out of 3 oropharyngeal cancers and in a much smaller fraction of oral cavity cancers.
There are many more statistics and risk factors for the disease. For more information, visit the ACS webpage on the topic.
Good News in the Fight
The survival rate has increased over the last 10 years from 50% to 57%. Both the ACS and the Oral Cancer Foundation say. This is because Oropharyngeal cancers that contain HPV DNA tend to have a better outlook than those without HPV.
Early detection also continues to be the best way to beat this cancer. Caught before the cancer spreads anywhere, a patient’s survival rate is above 80%.
How We Can Help
The ACS says regular dental checkups are key to catching oral cancer in its early stages. At our office, we use the VELscope early detection system. The screening procedure is quick and pain-free. In about two minutes, with no unpleasant rinses or stains involved, you can take the best precaution available against oral cancer.
So, contact our office if you’d like to schedule a screening or if you have questions about oral cancer. We’ll be happy to help advance the fight and help save as many people as we can from this potent disease.