Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in men worldwide and almost two-thirds of cases are in advanced stages by the time they are detected. A number of risk factors have long been associated with oral cancer including smoking, human papilloma virus (HPV), gender and age. Recently, heavy drinking has also been linked to oral cancers, especially when occurring in conjunction with other risk factors.
The term “oral cancer” refers to cancers of the lip, tongue, floor of mouth, tonsils and soft palate. If you notice any sores, swelling or discolorations that do not heal on their own after two weeks it is important that you consult your dentist. Early detection can greatly increase your chances of a full and speedy recovery.
The vast majority of oral cancer cases are linked to tobacco use, and the greater frequency and duration of use of tobacco products is directly proportional to increase in risk of oral cancer. Heavy drinking can also increase your risk of oral cancer, but it is the combination of tobacco use and heavy drinking which really causes your risk to skyrocket. It has been estimated that this combination can cause up to a 100-fold increase in your risk of oral cancer.
Men are about twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 62 years. It has been estimated that HPV — which is usually associated with cervical cancer – is responsible for 20 to 30 percent of oral cancers.
If you develop oral cancer, you dentist may suggest a number of dental treatment options, including surgically removing the affected cells, radiation or chemotherapy.
Remember, early detection is indispensible in fighting oral cancer so consult your dentist immediately if you notice any irregularities that do not disappear within two weeks. Your dentist can provide an oral cancer exam at each of your regular dental visits.