Oral Cancer is Deadly Over 8,000 people die annually from oral and pharyngeal cancer. As the deadliest form of head and neck cancer, it is important to know the facts and risk factors associated with this form of cancer. Most people think that oral cancer only affects people who smoke or use chewing tobacco. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In recent years, much of what we believed about risk factors for oral cancer has been shown to be only a part of the big picture. HPV-Connection One important factor to consider is that the same virus which has been shown to cause cervical cancer, the HPV-16 (human papilloma virus), also causes oral cancer. In fact, oral cancer is showing up in patients who are younger and younger than the over 40 high risk age group previously defined. While traditional lifestyle choices and risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and environmental risks are still considered high risk factors, younger patients with no known lifestyle risks are being diagnosed with this disease. Early Detection Saves Lives Oral cancer is so serious because it is often not detected until it has progressed to an advanced stage. Late detection of oral cancer carries with it a 57% 5-year mortality rate. When detected in the very early stages, the chances of survival increase dramatically. In recent years, the early detection of oral cancer and precancerous lesions in the mouth, pharynx and oral tissues has been improved dramatically through the integration of specialized examination tools. Your dentist will perform a visual and tactile oral cancer screening in addition to using one of these tools in order to ensure that you are protected. Shining a Light on Oral Cancer The Velscope light is one such tool which utilizes technology which is very similar to that which detects precancerous and cancerous cervical lesions. A specialized light is used to illuminate
oral tissue during examination. Normal tissue appears green and possible abnormal tissue appears darkened. This new method of early detection has made it possible to prevent abnormal tissue from developing into cancer. The Best Way to Prevent Oral Cancer? See your dentist regularly. Have an oral cancer screening performed annually. Do not ignore warning signs.