What do you know about oral cancer? Because the disease has been closely linked with smoking and tobacco use in the past, nonsmokers often believe they aren’t at risk. However, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients today is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals.
Why, you may ask? The human papilloma virus (HPV) — one of the most common viruses in the United States — is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer. The CDC says that up to 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime. Fortunately, the body’s immune system is usually able to clear these infections without noticeable symptoms.
Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in or near the mouth that does not go away. The most common symptoms include
- swelling, lumps, or rough red/white patches on the lips or inside the mouth
- unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- loss of feeling or pain/tenderness in the face, mouth, or neck
- persistent sores on the face, mouth, or neck
- a feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
- ear pain
- a change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
- dramatic weight loss
Though approximately 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, awareness remains low. The disease can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. If you notice a problem, please bring it to the attention of a medical or dental professional as soon as possible.