There is increased evidence that younger people are being diagnosed with oral cancer than ever before. The average age of someone getting oral cancer used to be 55 or older, now people in their 20’s and 30’s are being diagnosed, and they are non-smokers and non-drinkers so the traditional risk factors are no longer playing a major role.
The traditional risk factors that can increase your chances of getting oral cancer include tobacco use of any kind, excessive alcohol use, over exposure to sunlight (lip cancers), poor nutrition that includes a lack of fruits and vegetables and age. But the newest factor causing oral cancer is the HPV virus, a virus that is sexually transmitted. This may be why younger adults are being diagnosed with oral cancer.
There are 43,250 cases of oral cancer diagnosed every year with nearly 8,000 deaths annually and it is the least talked about cancer. The survival rate is less than 64% because it is a cancer that is usually diagnosed at a late stage. As with any other cancer, the earlier the detection the better the survival rate is.
The visual screening includes examining the face for any swelling, the neck for any lumps, the lips for any spots, the interior of the mouth, to include tongue, tonsils, mouth floor, cheeks, for any red or white patches, any persistent sores inside the mouth and any loose teeth.
If your doctor or dentist does find an abnormality while doing the visual examination, he/she will probably order a biopsy to confirm the findings. Another form of diagnosing is to rinse your mouth with a special dye then a special light is shone into the mouth area and any abnormal cells will light up. These abnormal cells can then also be biopsied to check for cancer.
Symptoms you should tell your doctor or dentist about include: unexplained weight loss, change in voice, persistent bad breath, difficulty chewing or swallowing, tongue numbness, persistent sore throat, the feeling that something is caught in your throat, and unexplained pain in the mouth or teeth.
If you are diagnoses with oral cancer, you and your doctor or dentist will devise a plan of action together.
Remember, early detection is the best protection so talk to your dentist or doctor about having an oral screening done annually. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.