Oral Cancer Awareness Week is observed on April 3 – 9, 2022 (thanks to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance). It is supported by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery to draw attention to this often fatal disease and how early detection is the key to surviving cancer.
Oral Cancer Screenings
We encourage getting oral cancer screenings as our oral and maxillofacial surgeons can detect oral cancer in the early stages. There are more than 43,000 cases of oral, head and neck cancers every year. The biggest risk comes from those who smoke or use tobacco. For otherwise young and healthy people, HPV tends to be the culprit, and while this virus can’t be stopped from spreading, early treatment can make a big difference.
Oral, head, and neck cancer usually begins in the squamous cells, which line the moist, mucosal surfaces in the head and neck, and less commonly in the salivary glands. The mucosa in the mouth is a unique type of skin that is smooth and looks coral pink. So if we spot any areas of the mucosa looking abnormal, this could mean needing to be checked for a pathological condition like oral cancer.
So, what should you be on the look for when it comes to oral, head, and neck cancers? Many times it begins with a lump or a sore throat that lasts a long time and doesn’t get better. Treating oral cancer depends on where the cancer is located, how far along the cancer is and your general health. Treating cancer may mean having surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or a mixture of these therapies.
Our oral surgeons are uniquely equipped when it comes to diagnosing and treating pathologic lesions of the mouth, face, and jaws, whether you have small, benign soft tissue lesions to big cysts or tumors. So what should you be checking?
Early Cancer Signs
- Any white or red patches in the mouth
- Any lumps or thickening in the skin lining the inside of the mouth
- A persistent sore that tends to bleed and does not heal
- Problems swallowing and chewing
- An abnormal growth on the surface of the tissue or deeper areas
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
These signs do not just apply to the mouth, either; they can also show up in the following areas:
- Gum tissue surrounding the teeth and tongue
One thing to note is that there is not always pain with oral cancer, which is why the screenings are so valuable. But if you do have oral or facial pain without an explanation, this might indicate a greater risk of oral cancer. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), oral and pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the upper throat and mouth) together kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year. Also, nearly 48,250 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year.
Spread the Word
Oral Cancer Awareness Week is the time to share this information with your family, friends, and coworkers to help them understand the importance of regular self-exams and screenings. The AAOMS reports that the death rate linked to oral and pharyngeal cancers tends to run high because the cancer is too often discovered late in its development.
Help spread the word and take this time to get your oral cancer screening as part of a complete oral exam. Be sure to regularly perform an oral cancer self-exam yourself to spot any unusual signs. Your mouth is one of your body’s early warning systems to help you spot developing problems when they are often most easily treated. We welcome you to give our team a call to learn more or schedule your oral cancer screening!