Oral cancer includes cancer of the tongue, cheek, or gums.
At the time of writing, more than 21,000 men and 9,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most are over age 60.
Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, but one-in-four oral cancers develop in non-smokers.
Amongst those who chew tobacco, mouth problems that may seem minor soon become quite serious. For example, tooth decay may begin from the high sugar contents in some formulations, while enamel surfaces wear down. Gums may pull away from the teeth where the tobacco is commonly placed and tooth loss may also occur. When health hazards become extremely serious, white patches and red sores may be found in the mouth on the gum and/or cheek, or where tobacco contact is most prevalent. These patches, which may become cancerous over time, are called leukoplakia, and are found quite often among chewing tobacco users.
Some of the symptoms are: sores in mouth that don't go away, red or white patches in mouth, constant bleeding in mouth, numbness in mouth, swelling or lumps in mouth, and – late symptoms – difficulty with swallowing and speech.
A biopsy usually follows a visual check.
Mouth cancer is very hard to cure, and because it spreads rapidly through the body, it is essential to take precautions immediately.
By quitting tobacco today and receiving treatment for your mouth problems, you may be able to catch the cancer before it is too late.
Regular visits to the dentist can help spot warning signs.
Oral cancer has a survival rate of only 35%, mainly because it is often detected too late.
Warning signs for oral cancer include unexplained mouth pain or open sore(s) in the mouth that don't go away within a week or two.
A small percentage of leukoplakia patches show early signs of cancer, and many cancers of the mouth occur next to these white patches. Precancerous leukoplakia often includes raised red lesions.
Cancer Research UK warned in August of 2009 that growing numbers of 40-somethings are developing mouth, lip and tongue cancer because they drink too much alcohol. Diagnoses of oral cancer have gone up by 28% among men in their 40s and 24% among women the same age since the mid-1990s. The charity says tobacco does not explain the rise, as it takes up to 30 years to cause cancer. Some 41% of cancers of the mouth could be prevented if no one drank, the World Cancer Research Fund estimated.
Chewing tobacco is known to cause cancer of the mouth.
Smoking is a major cause of oral cancer (tongue, cheeks, lips, gums), accounting for 92% of these cancers in men and 61% in women. The increased risk attributed to smoking is of 27-fold in men and 6-fold in women. As with laryngeal cancer, alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of oral cancer.
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