Frightening Statistics Of Oral Cancer

Posted on Jul 11, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

When you ask the American population which cancer affects most adults, you usually hear replies of breast cancer or colon cancer. Yes, these cancers are widespread and can be deadly. However, several cancers have had the voices of famous celebrities to help bring them to the forefront. This has been a positive step in helping to save lives.

Being aware of the symptoms of cancers is important. It helps us detect early warning signs and see a doctor, who can take appropriate action. The publicity has also garnered governmental guidelines for regular screenings and even inspired the development of advanced technology. This has furthered the ability to catch the disease at its earliest stages.

Yet, for Oral Cancer, having a widely-known and influential public spokesperson has yet to occur. Quite frankly, even though your regular dental checkups and exams include an annual screening for Oral Cancer, that has left a large percentage of American adults unchecked.

The latest figures from the Centers Of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) show that only 62% of adults ages 18 – 64 have a dental check-up each year. So, if the key component in catching Oral Cancer early lies in the hands of a dentist, until the patient is in the dental chair, the challenge will continue.

What makes Oral Cancer so deadly is its ability to progress long before symptoms emerge. By the time they do, it becomes a difficult cancer to battle. Treatment is often very disfiguring. Even worse, it is known to be one of the deadliest of all cancers, taking the life of one American every hour of every day.

According to the National Cancer Institute Survey, there has been a 15% rise in oral cancer rates over the past three decades. Adult males are at the highest risk for Oral Cancer, with Black males being the most susceptible.

Oral cancer risk also increases with age, especially after age 50. Risk levels generally peak between ages 60 – 70. The highest rates have been noted with males between ages 50 – 59.

A particular factor that is spiking numbers in younger age groups is the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Other risk factors (for all ages) includes tobacco and alcohol use. While most cases of oral cancer are linked to cigarette smoking or heavy alcohol use, combined tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk even more than the two risk factors combined.

Unfortunately, many people assume “if it doesn’t hurt, then nothing is wrong.” This, I believe, is one of the reasons our nation has such high levels of periodontal (gum) disease and subsequent adult tooth loss. And, as rising Oral Cancer statistics show, the casual attitude toward dental exams can lead to far worse than losing teeth.

Be aware of warning signs of oral cancer, including:

•    A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in the mouth, lip, or throat
•    White or red patch inside the mouth
•    Feeling something is stuck in the throat
•    Difficulty chewing or swallowing
•    Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
•    Numbness in the tongue or other areas of the mouth
•    Unexplained swelling of the jaw
•    Pain in an ear without hearing loss

While the symptoms above do not always indicate Oral Cancer, any that do not clear up on their own within 2 weeks should be examined immediately. Being proactive can mean the difference between resolving the problem simply or disfiguring surgeries, and even death.

A Periodontal specialist has extensive training in the treatment of the soft tissues in the mouth. A periodontist is your best choice when any unusual symptom in the mouth arises and is your first step in protecting your smile and adding to a healthy YOU.

Call 828-274-9440 for an examination appointment. Also, the American Cancer Society has excellent information at:

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