Oral cancer represents approximately 2.3% of all cancers in Canada. Unlike other cancers, the survival rate of oral cancer is extremely low, resulting in death in about 50% of cases. However, early detection from your dentist can increase the survival rate sharply to almost 90%.
Smoking and alcohol consumption are key risk factors to the development of oral cancer. About 90% of people with oral cancer use tobacco. Quitting tobacco and alcohol significantly lowers the risk of developing oral cancer, even after many years of use. Excessive sun exposure to the lips also increases the risk of oral cancer.
The symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
- A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal within 2 weeks
- A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
- Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
- A sore throat that does not go away or a feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly
- A change in the voice and/or pain in the ear
Oral cancer screening should be done annually by your dentist. Traditionally, a surgical biopsy is done to determine if a suspicious area of the mouth is cancerous. However, a new and painless procedure called the Oral CDx Brush Biopsy is now available to screen questionable tissue irregularities.