Each year in the US there are nearly 50,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed. There are more than 450,000 cases diagnosed worldwide. Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer and it is any kind of cancer that occurs in the mouth. There are several types of oral cancers and around 90% of them are squamous cell carcinomas. Oral cancer has a particularly high rate of mortality (nearly 10,000 people in the US die each year) because oral cancer is often not found until the cancer has invaded other areas like the lymph nodes or the neck and has reached the third or fourth stage of the disease. There is only a 57% survival rate after five years. People who contract oral cancer and beat it also have a much higher rate of contracting it a second time.
Dangerous for Both Men and Women
The demographics of those people who are more likely to be infected by oral cancer have changed over time. It used to be that one woman for every six men was diagnosed with oral cancer. It is now one woman for every two men that are diagnosed. This increase in women contracting the disease is believed to be linked to the higher number of women that are engaging in smoking.
What Are The Risk Factors For Oral Cancer?
Factors like smoking, use of chewing or spit tobacco, and excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of getting oral cancer and this is prevalent in people over forty years of age. There is also a virus known as HPV16 (Human Papilloma Virus) that is responsible for more and more cases of oral cancer showing up in people as young as 16. It is believed that HPV16 may put many people at risk for oral cancer and that the virus will cause more cases of oral cancer than smoking or excessive alcohol use.
What is Human Papilloma Virus?
Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually transmitted disease that affects many people throughout their lives. It passes harmlessly through the bodies of many people who are infected but for a small number it can cause cervical, penile, anal, and oral cancer. The best way to prevent the virus is to be vaccinated against it, engage in safe sexual acts, and make sure that your immune system is not compromised.
Signs to Watch For
Oral cancer can be hard to diagnose but there are a few signs that you can look for to prevent the disease from going unnoticed. Be vigilant about checking for sores in your mouth tongue and throat that take longer than they should to heal. Report it immediately to your dentist if you have painful sores or infections that have stubbornly refused to disappear. Cancerous cells can show up as painless ulcers that you may not notice. It is important that you make regular visits to your dentist so that they can be aware of any changes to the tissues in your mouth.