Oral Cancer

In lieu of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, here at the dental office, we obviously tend to be more cautious of the oral cavity.  Most of our population has no idea just how aggressive oral cancer really is. 

Close to 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.  It will cause close to 10,000 deaths, roughly killing 1 person per hour, every day.  Of those newly 50,000 diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.

Oral Cancers are part of the group of head and neck cancers.  Of that group, they comprise about 85% of that group. In its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient and can prosper without any symptoms.  Most often it is discovered when the cancer has metastasized to another location, likely the lymph nodes of the neck.  Once it has made it way out of the intra oral area, it is significantly worse to treat.  It is said that an estimated $3.2 billion is spent in the U.S. each year on treatment.

Historically the majority of people are over the age of 40 when oral cancer is discovered, but now occurring more frequently in those under this age.  Mainly due to the HPV16 virus.  HPV16 has now been shown to be sexually transmitted and is implicated in the increasing number of young non-smokers.  There are also links to young men and women who use “smokeless” chewing tobacco.  Promoted by many as a safer alternative to smoking, it has not been proven to be any safer to those who use it when referring to oral cancer.  The jury is out on another new smokeless tobacco dissolvable products, but until there is acceptable research behind it, we recommend avoiding it.

Signs and Symptoms

The real danger of this cancer, is that it can go unnoticed in its early stages. The great news is that your Dentist can in many cases, see or feel the tissue changes.  It may appear as a red or white patch on the tissue of the mouth, even mocking the look of a common canker sore.  Many benign tissue changes occur in your mouth.  Things like a bite to the inside of your cheek may mimic a dangerous tissue change.  It is very important to have a sore or a discolored area of your mouth that does not heal in 14 days, looked at by a professional.  Others symptoms may include; a mass or lump that can be felt inside the mouth or neck, difficulty or pain speaking, swallowing, chewing, hoarseness which lasts for a long period of time, or numbness in the oral area. 

It is likely that your general dentist or Medical doctor may refer you to have a biopsy done on the area of concern.  This is inexpensive, non-painful and takes very little time.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, we would be happy to see them for an evaluation.  Please contact our office at: 248-539-3088.


As always, we are so very happy to have you as part of our practice family!

See you at your next visit!