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Clinical Overview

Clinical Overview
Oral Cancer

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by: Dr. Kristen Dority

Can start as a small red or white sore inside the mouth. Other symptoms include a sore that does not heal, pain or numbness in the mouth and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer annually, a figure that has not significantly declined in decades. The death rate associated with this type of cancer is particularly high because the disease is routinely discovered late in its development. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it has a high risk of producing second primary tumors. Patients who survive a first encounter with the disease have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. There are several types of oral cancers, but 90 percent are squamous cell carcinomas. Males are six times as likely to get oral cancer than females. While the majority of patients are over 40, young men that use smokeless tobacco are predisposed as well. Indeed, 75 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer have a history of tobacco use in some form. Oral cancer in women is also on the rise due to an increase in the number of women who smoke. One of the real dangers of oral cancer is that it can be painless in early stages and thus go unnoticed. Sores or discolored areas in the mouth that do not heal within 14 days are potential signs, and individuals are advised to have them evaluated by a professional. Other symptoms include a lump or mass that can be felt inside the mouth or neck; pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing; wart-like masses; prolonged hoarseness; or numbness in the oral/facial region. Other than the lips (outside of lip due to sunlight), the most common areas for oral cancer to develop are on the side of the tongue and the floor of the mouth.

Last updated: May-03-07

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