October 1, 2012
In the United States an estimated 36,450 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity are diagnosed annually. Nearly 7,880 people die of cancer of the oral cavity each year.
Traditional risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol use. High-risk sites in the oral cavity that have a higher rate of malignant transformation include the tongue and floor of the mouth. Cancer of the gingival (gum tissue) is less common.
Oral cancer can present with many different symptoms. Often, a non-healing ulcer (wound), whether or not it is painful, is the first presenting symptom.
Other symptoms that should raise suspicion of an oral cavity cancer include: white or red spots, bleeding mouth sores, increased mouth pain, loose teeth, poor-fitting dentures, non-healing extraction socket, ear pain, lip or tongue numbness, difficulty/painful swallowing, change in speech or a lump in the neck. It is very important to remember that any white/red lesion or ulcer in the mouth that has not healed within three weeks should be evaluated by a dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.