Oral Cancer Is A Deadly Threat

Posted on Oct 23, 2013 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Recently, Michael Douglas revealed that his former claim of having, and conquering, throat cancer was false. He admitted to actually having cancer of the tongue, a form of oral cancer. He shared that his reason for hiding his true diagnosis was to protect his career. Because of the radical surgery requirements to remove oral cancer, (that is, when it’s not too late to effectively treat it), he feared his acting career would be negatively affected, no matter the outcome of surgery.

Now that he has been able to recoup and rebound, which is not always the case with oral cancer, he is being more open and forthright about his ordeal. Oral cancer kills about 1 person each hour, 24 hours every day. Of those newly diagnosed, approximately 57% (or a little over half) will be alive in 5 years. This percentage has not significantly improved in decades.

Not many could blame Mr. Douglas for his concerns. For movie fans, many still remember the film critic duo of Siskel & Ebert. Roger Ebert suffered from oral cancer, also, and succumbed in 2013 after a nearly 10 year battle with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands. Pictures of his disfigured face were far from how he once appeared.

From the mid-1970’s through 2004, the National Cancer Institute reveals a 15% increase in oral cancer rates. While men ages 60 – 79 have the highest risk, both sexes and all adults are susceptible. Recent facts show:
•    For every 100,000 adults, 10.5 will develop oral cancer.
•    Oral cancer rates are significantly higher for males than for females.
•    Oral cancer rates are higher for Hispanic and Black males than White males.
•    Oral cancer rates increase with age, with a more rapid increase after age 50, peaking between ages 60 – 70

Survival rates for oral cancer can be improved, however, with greater awareness. The following symptoms should be closely monitored and, if still present after a week to 10 days, checked immediately by a dentist or dental specialist.

– white or red patch of tissue in the mouth or lips
– small ulcer similar to a common canker sore
– tissue changes that mimic a bite on the inside of your cheek
– any sore or discolored area of your mouth
– lump or mass that can be felt inside the mouth or neck
– pain or difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing
– wart-like mass
– persistent hoarseness
– numbness in the oral/facial region
– persistent ear ache in both ears

Because symptoms can be painless and are minimally visible or changing, these signs are often ignored or the individual chooses to delay having them checked until their 6-month dental exam.

Delays can be deadly. Take charge of your well-being and be proactive when it comes to your oral health. We’d much rather give you good news than have you amidst the terrible statistics of oral cancer. Call (828) 274-9440 for more information.

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