Every hour of every day in America someone dies of Oral Cancer. Oral Cancer is the sixth most common diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. Presently 30,000 patients are diagnosed annually with oral cancer. The 5-year survival rate is only 50%, accounting for 8,000 deaths each year. Oral Cancer risk factors include tobacco use, frequent and/or excessive alcohol consumption, a compromised immune system, past history of cancer, and the presence of the HPV virus. Recently however 25% of all newly diagnosed cases have been in patients under the age of forty with none of the known risk factors. Oral Cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved in the past 50 years. This is due primarily to the fact that during this time we have not changed the way we screen for this disease (a visual and manual examination of the oral cavity, head, and neck).
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas (OSCC) make up over 90% of all oral cancers, and because of its appearance it has been difficult to differentiate from the other relatively benign lesions of the oral cavity. Early OSCC and potentially malignant lesions can appear as a white patch (leukoplakia, or as a reddened area (erythroplakia), or as a red and white (erythroleukoplakia) mucosal change under standard white light examination. However, these cellular changes are often non-detectable to the human eye (even with magnification eyewear) under standard lighting conditions. Often, when the lesion becomes visible, it has advanced to invasive stages. The high mortality rate is directly related to the lack of early detection of potentially malignant lesions. When diagnosis and treatment are performed at or before a Stage 1 carcinoma level, the survival rate is more than 90%.
The cancers which have seen a major decline in the mortality rate have included colon, cervical, and prostate cancer and the primary reason is early detection and screening.
We can make a difference in the oral cancer mortality rate.
Early screening, diagnosis, and treatment planning saves lives.