It is difficult to detect oral cancer until it has spread to nearby tissue and lymph nodes. Surgical removal or radiation therapy are two options for early treatment of oral cancer. However, removal is usually only feasible if the cancer is smaller and is not affecting the surrounding anatomy. A larger tumor may require the removal of part of the jaw bone and tongue. As with other types of cancer, dental cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms of oral cancer may also include a mass or swelling in the mouth or gums.
If you think you have oral cancer, your dentist will recommend a follow-up visit within a few weeks. During this visit, your dentist may remove some of the affected tissues and send them to a laboratory for more detailed testing. Your dentist may perform an X-ray or endoscopy in addition to a biopsy. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a biopsy in addition to a cancer screening. Your treatment may be dependent on the results of the test.
A 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is based on the National Cancer Institute’s definition. In general, individuals with the disease have a seventy to ninety percent chance of recovery. However, if the disease is detected later, its chances of survival are only between sixty-four and 38 percent. Knowing the risk factors and options for treatment are important for patients and dentists alike. There are five hundred thousand new cases of oral cancer worldwide each year, with over fifty thousand occurring in the U.S. alone. It is twice as common in males as in females.
Although genetics play a major role in developing oral cancer, many other factors may increase your risk. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and prolonged exposure to the sun are all known to increase your risk of developing the disease. A previous oral cancer diagnosis and significant sun exposure increase the risk of developing it again. Also, if you have been exposed to sun, your risk for lip cancer increases. If you notice a lump or ulcer that does not heal within three weeks, see a dentist.
Surgical treatment of mouth cancer depends on the type of disease and stage. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with other forms of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the disease, patients may receive chemotherapy alone or in combination with other types of cancer treatments. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms while ensuring the best possible recovery. This type of treatment is usually reserved for advanced cases of mouth cancer.