The term oral cancer includes cancers of the
mouth and the pharynx, part of the throat. About two-thirds of oral cancers
occur in the mouth and about one-third are found in the pharynx.
Oral cancer will be diagnosed in an estimated
28,000 Americans this year and will cause approximately 7,000 deaths. It is
the 6th most common cancer in men and the 14th most common cancer in women.
Oral cancer can spread quickly. On average, 59
percent of those with the disease will survive more than five years.
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over
the age of 40 and affects twice as many men as women.
Most oral cancer is preventable. 75 percent of
oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcohol use, or use of both
substances together. Using both tobacco and alcohol puts you at much greater
risk than using either substance alone.
Do not use tobacco products —
cigarettes, chew or snuff, pipes or cigars. Tobacco in all forms
plays a role in oral cancers.
If you drink alcohol, do so only in
moderation. Excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of oral
Use lip balm that contains sunscreen.
Exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for lip cancer.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables as part of a low-fat, high fiber diet
may help reduce cancer risk. The National Cancer Institute suggests eating
at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
See a dentist or physician if any of the
following symptoms lasts for more than two weeks.
A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in
your mouth, lip, or throat
A white or red patch in your mouth
A feeling that something is caught in your
Difficulty chewing or swallowing
Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
Numbness in your tongue or other areas of
Swelling of your jaw that causes dentures
to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
Pain in one ear without hearing loss
It is important to find oral cancer as early as
possible when it can be treated more successfully.
An oral cancer examination can detect early
signs of cancer. Oral cancer exams are painless and quick — and take only a
Your regular dental check-up is an excellent
opportunity to have the exam. During the exam, your dentist or dental
hygienist will check your face, neck, lips, and entire mouth for possible
signs of cancer.
Some parts of the pharynx are not visible
during an oral cancer exam. Talk to your dentist about whether a specialist
should check your pharynx.