Each year, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. are diagnosed with oral cancer, and close to 10,000 people die from it. Although this disease is not as prevalent as other forms of cancer, it is still worthy of our attention. Let’s discuss the stages of this disease, why oral cancer screenings are so important, and how oral cancer is typically prevented and treated.
Stages of Oral Cancer
There are five basic stages of oral cancer:
- Stage 0. There are abnormal cells in or around the mouth that have the potential to develop into cancer.
- Stage 1. The cancerous growth is smaller than 2cm in diameter. It has not spread into nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 2. The tumor is 2 – 4 cm in diameter but has still not spread into the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 3. Either the cancer is larger than 4cm, or it has made its way into a lymph node.
- Stage 4. The cancerous cells have spread beyond their original location. The disease may be present in nearby lymph nodes, other portions of the oral cavity, or even more distant areas of the body.
The Importance of Early Detection
Data collected by the National Cancer Institute shows that the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is 83% in cases where the cancer has not spread beyond its original location. Sadly, the survival rate drops dramatically, down to just 38%, in instances where the cancer has spread into other parts of the body.
Clearly, catching oral cancer before it grows and spreads can be a matter of life and death. Regular oral cancer screenings with a dentist are therefore hugely important. During a routine cleaning and checkup, a member of your dental team simply looks for anything abnormal in your oral cavity, such as lumps or areas of discoloration. If there are any suspicious spots, you’ll be helped to arrange further testing.
Preventing and Treating Oral Cancer
Hopefully, you are never diagnosed with cancer. You can reduce your risk of that happening by avoiding the use of tobacco, consuming alcohol only in moderation, and making sure you avoid excessive sun exposure. A balanced diet can also be helpful.
If you ever do face a cancer diagnosis, your treatment will depend on how severe your condition is. Surgery to remove growths, radiation, and chemotherapy may all play a role in your recovery. Your dentist, your oral surgeon, your oncologist, and your general physician may all work together to help you manage your oral and overall wellness throughout your cancer treatment.
Oral cancer is not a disease that should be lightly dismissed. By being proactive about prevention and screening, you might just save your own life!
Meet the Practice
Dr. Steve Koo and his team provide oral cancer screenings, oral cancer surgery, and a range of other treatments in our comfortable, welcoming practice in Katy. If you are battling oral cancer or have questions about it, we are ready to speak with you. Contact us at 832-353-1100.