The Warning Signs of Oral Cancer (and Why It’s Important to Know Them)
- Author Steve Koo
- Published February 14, 2023
- Word count 522
In the United States, oral cancer accounts for about three percent of all cancers diagnosed in the space of one year. This condition often isn’t caught until it reaches its more advanced stages, but there are a number of warning signs you can keep an eye out for. Below is a brief overview of the common symptoms associated with oral cancer – as well as why having the disease identified and treated as early as possible is vital.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can present itself in a variety of ways, so not everyone will notice the exact same symptoms. Furthermore, in many cases, you might not even realize that anything is wrong until your cancer has already spread. As such, you should visit your dentist once every six months to have an oral cancer screening performed as part of your regular checkups; this will improve your odds of catching oral cancer early.
With all that said, here are some common warning signs of oral cancer:
• Sores inside your mouth or on your lip that don’t go away on their own.
• An unusual lump in your mouth, on your lips, or in your cheeks.
• Chronic or recurring pain.
• A white or red patch on your gums, your tongue, or elsewhere in your mouth.
• Constantly having the feeling that something is caught in your throat.
• Having trouble chewing or swallowing.
• Difficulty moving your jaw or your tongue.
• An unusual numbness in a specific part of your mouth.
• Dentures that no longer fit properly.
• A change in the way your voice sounds.
• Teeth that feel loose.
• A noticeable lump or mass in the back of your throat.
• Weight loss.
Needless to say, many of these symptoms could also point to other health issues. For example, loose teeth might be a consequence of gum disease, and swelling could mean that you have an infection. For this reason, it’s important to get in touch with a professional as soon as possible so that you can learn more about the steps you’ll need to take to have a proper diagnosis made.
Why is Having Oral Cancer Identified So Important?
Based on the most recent estimates, oral cancer causes about 11,580 deaths each year. That’s roughly one death every hour. However, it’s important to note that the survival rate for oral cancer can vary significantly depending on when it’s caught.
About 83% of people who have their oral cancer diagnosed while it’s localized will still be alive after five years. But for people whose oral cancer has already spread to distant organs, the survival rate for the same period of time is only about 41%. (Note that these rates vary depending on which part of the mouth the cancer is located in.)
Simply put, your chances of having oral cancer successfully treated will improve significantly with an early diagnosis, which is why you need to familiarize yourself with the warning signs. If you have any reason to suspect that you have cancer in your mouth, you need to be proactive about having it addressed; it could end up saving your life.
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