This year alone, oral cancer (including oral and oropharyngeal cancer) will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families.

Historically, the death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high due to late-stage diagnosis and intervention. Currently, the vast majority of patients are detected through a visual exam and/or are symptomatic, at which point they are likely late stage. As a result, oral cancer often goes undetected to the point of metastasizing. Early detection (stage I and II) of oral cancer yields survival rates of up to 80% to 90%.3

When caught at a late stage, the physical and psychological impact of oral cancer can be severe. Surgical removal may require reconstruction of portions of the oral cavity or facial features. There may also be therapy required to assist in speech and chewing as well as the fabrication of dental or facial prostheses.

The faces of oral cancer are changing

Historically, most individuals diagnosed with oral cancer were over 40 and/or tobacco users. However, the risk factors associated with oral cancers are changing and impacting a wider range of ages and backgrounds.

Anyone can get cancer, but certain factors increase your risk. Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are two important risk factors associated with developing oral cancer. Another risk factor includes exposure to certain types of HPV – human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus – which is contributing to a rise in oral cancer among young people.

  1. WHO 2014-2015 World Cancer Report
  2. Oral Cancer Foundation
  3. Pereira LH, Reis IM, Reategui EP, Gordon C, Saint-Victor S, Duncan R, Gomez C, Bayers S, Fisher P, Perez A, Goodwin WJ, Hu JJ, Franzmann EJ. Risk Stratification System for Oral Cancer Screening. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2016 Jun;9(6):445-55.