Understanding Oral Cancer
World Oral Health Day is March 20th, and we’re raising awareness of oral cancer!

Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx are diagnosed and over 8,000 deaths due to oral cancer occur. The five-year survival rate for these cancers is only about 50 percent.

Oral cancer is part of a group called head and neck cancers. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the cavity or oropharynx. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and on the floor of the mouth; however can be found on the lips, the lining of your cheeks, salivary glands, roof and back of your mouth, gums, or your tonsils as well.

 It is known that alcohol, tobacco (smoking and chewing) are leading causes of oral cancer, but scientists say that 64 percent of cancers of the oral cavity, head and neck in the U.S. are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). There are now vaccinations for teens and young adults to protect them against HPV and now a byproduct, oral cancer.

Sun exposure is another risk factor of oral cancer, especially on the lower lip. So next time you are in the sun, don’t forget that SPF lip balm!

Early Detection & Common Symptoms

Early detection is key in regards to survival rate for oral cancer. At Fulp Family Dentistry we provide oral cancer screenings with every dental cleaning! During this exam, your dentist is able to detect early stages of oral cancer such as white patches (leukoplakia), mixed red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia) or red patches (erythroplakia) that often become malignant or cancerous.

Other common symptoms include: a sore in the mouth that does not heal, bleeding in your mouth, difficulty or pain when swallowing, a lump in your neck or even an earache.

If an exam shows an abnormal area, a small sample of the tissue may be removed which is called a biopsy. A pathologist will look at the tissue under a microscope and check for cancer cells. If it is oral cancer, the treatment will depend on the location, type, size, and extent. Surgery to remove oral cancer in the mouth is the usual treatment, however, radiation and chemotherapy could be necessary as well.

So if you fall into the category of smoking, chewing tobacco or heavy alcohol use, think again. Chronic users of chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer compared to non-users. Even quitting will greatly decrease your chances of getting oral cancer.

Keep your eye out for any changes in your mouth. If you are concerned, please contact our office. Fulp Family Dentistry is a family dental office located in Tifton, Georgia. Dr. Nicole and Dr. Scott Fulp offer family dentistry and cosmetic dental services such as whitening, crowns, Invisalign, veneers, implants and more to Tifton and surrounding communities including Sylvester, Adel, Ashburn, Fitzgerald, Ocilla, and Nashville.