April 7, 2016

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Learn the Facts About Oral Cancer


  • An estimated 35,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed each year.
  • Oral cancer will claim 7,600 lives annually.
  • On average, 60 percent of those with the disease will survive more than five years.
  • Oral cancer affects almost twice as many men as women.

Risk Factors

  • An estimated 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.
  • Alcohol and tobacco remain the greatest risk factors (and using them in combination increases the risk 15 times over the use of one or the other);
  • Infection with the sexually transmitted HPV16 virus has been linked to a subset of oral cancers.
  • Historically, oral cancer has been a disease of those ages 40+, but its incidence in those under 40 has been climbing.
  • Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure is a risk factor for lip cancer.
  • Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes – users face a 400% greater chance of oral cancer than non-users.

Possible Signs and Symptoms

While you may have no symptoms at all, you should see your oral and maxillofacial surgeon or dentist if you experience any of the following:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening on the lips or gums or in the mouth
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils or lining of the mouth
  • Bleeding, pain or numbness in the lip or mouth
  • Change in voice
  • Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat

Early Detection

  • Performing a self-examination regularly increases the chance of identifying changes or new growths early.
  • If you have risk factors, also see your oral and maxillofacial surgeon or dentist for an oral examination at least annually.
  • The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier the treatment and the greater the chance of a cure.

Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

For more information, visit or call the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons at 800/822-6637.