Oral cancer is divided into two categories: those that occur in the oral cavity (the lips, the inside of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the gums, the front two thirds of the tongue and the floor and ceiling of the mouth) and those that occur in the oropharynx (middle region of the throat, including the tonsils and the base of the tongue).
Early detection can result in better treatment outcomes and can help keep you or someone you love from becoming one of the 10,030 people whose lives could be claimed this year for the disease. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is approximately 60 percent.
The oral cavity includes the lips, the lining of the cheeks, the gums, the front of the tongue, the floor of the mouth under the tongue and the hard palate that forms the roof of the mouth. The throat (pharynx) begins in the soft part of the roof of the mouth and continues towards the throat. It includes the posterior section of the tongue, as well as the base where the tongue adheres to the floor of the mouth.
It is important to know the following signs and symptoms and to consult your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.
- A sore or irritation that does not go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, scab, or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit when you close your mouth
Some people complain of sore throat, feeling of something stuck in the throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in the voice. If you have any of these symptoms, tell your dentist, especially if you have had them for two weeks or more.