April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Over 49,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a form of oral cancer every year. Survival rates for oral cancer have not gotten better over the years with only 57% of those who are diagnosed surviving past the five-year mark. Oral cancer is more concerning than other cancers that are more widely spoken of in the media, such as thyroid and cervical cancers.
Always Pay Attention to Symptoms of Health
The reason that the survival rate for oral cancer is so low is usually due to the fact that most of these cancers are discovered once they are far advanced. Additionally, a virus known as HPV16 has caused numerous oral and pharyngeal cancers in the past decade, yet it is very difficult to see any lesions from it. Sadly, many of these cancers are not treated until they have moved to another part of the body, such as the lymph nodes. Once the cancer has metastasized, it becomes more difficult to treat.
Therefore, seniors need to be on the lookout for symptoms of oral or pharyngeal cancers and should bring any of their concerns to the attention of their physicians. Oral cancers are routinely screened for by dentists who painlessly inspect the mouth and feel the lymph nodes in the neck. It is vital that seniors who use tobacco, drink alcohol or have oral cancer in their families be screened more often.
Stay Aware of Oral Cancer Symptoms
Although many symptoms of oral cancer do not show up until the disease is advanced, individuals should be on the lookout for these concerning symptoms. Seniors may notice a mouth sore that does not heal or pain in the mouth that does not subside. They may feel that they have a growth on the gums, tongue, cheeks or tonsils or a persistent sore throat. They may have problems moving the tongue, talking or chewing or find that their dentures suddenly fit poorly. Loosening teeth and voice changes also hint at oral cancers. Other symptoms of cancer, in general, may also apply here, such as weight loss.