Cancer of the tongue and oral cavities are the most common cancers of the mouth, closely followed by cancer of the throat, lip and neck. Oral cancer is one of the few cancers that has been predicted to increase in the coming years. Therefore, we have created this informative blog to help you understand oral cancer, its signs, and causes.
Who is affected by oral cancer?
Unfortunately, oral cancer can affect anyone, whether they have their own teeth or not. In the past, it was believed that oral cancer commonly affected people over the age of 40 years, with men being the most at risk of contracting the disease. However, new research has suggested that oral cancer has become an increasing problem among younger patients and women in particular.
Do people die from oral cancer?
Yes. An estimated amount of 1000 South Africans die from oral cancer each year, claiming more fatalities than lung cancer and cervical cancer. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if cancer had been detected early enough. With early detection, the survival rate of patients with oral cancer is 90%, but that number dramatically decreases to 40% with a delayed diagnosis.
What causes oral cancer?
More than 80% of oral cancer cases are directly linked to lifestyle choices and environmental factors. 60% of all oral cancer cases are caused by smoking tobacco. Smokers do not only put themselves at a higher risk of developing one of the various cancers linked to smoking tobacco products, but they also increase the risk of oral cancer in non-smokers due to the effects of second-hand smoking. Excessive alcohol consumption also contributes to oral cancer, and patients who drink and smoke have a 30% chance of developing oral cancer.
Oral cancer has also been linked to a poor diet and over exposure to sunlight.
What are the signs of oral cancer?
Oral cancer can appear in various forms, affecting all parts of the mouth, including the tongue and lips. Oral cancer can present itself as a painless mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal normally, or as a red/white patch in the mouth. Keep an eye out for any unusual lumps in your mouth or jaw area, as well as a persistent hoarse throat and difficulty swallowing. If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it is of utmost importance that you see your dentist.
The key to curing oral cancer is through early detection. Therefore, it is important that you schedule regular appointments with your dentist. Contact a dentist in Cape Town today.