If you think you may have oral cancer, you likely have many concerns to discuss with your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor, but will provide an overview on oral cancer, the symptoms and causes, and describe the diagnosis and treatment options. Use this article to help you formulate your own questions, and take them with you when you visit your doctor.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of new cases and deaths per 100,000 people, both male and female, from oral cancer is on the rise. The number of new cases of oral cavity and pharynx cancer was 11.2 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 2.5 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2010-2014 cases and deaths.
It is important to remember that this (and any U.S. statistical data with a focus on population statistics) are exactly that, based on the U.S. population. Because these statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to you or to any individual patient. Your personal medical history, lifestyle, and other health factors must also be taken into consideration.
The National Cancer Institute has also developed statistical data on the lifetime risk of developing this type of cancer. Approximately 1.1 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with oral cavity and pharynx cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2012-2014 data. In 2014, there were an estimated 346,902 people living with oral cavity and pharynx cancer in the United States.
Recommended Read: Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
When one discusses oral cancer, one is really discussing more than one type of cancer. Oral cancers are part of a group commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers, they comprise about 85 percent of that category, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
The death rate associated with this type of cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. At the time of this writing, there is still not a comprehensive program in the U.S. to specifically screen for this type of disease. Late stage discovery is more common than early stage discovery and diagnosis, and that is part of the problem for treating oral cancers.
Medical professionals say oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not even be noticed by the patient and it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize. In addition there is a high risk of producing second tumors. This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer.