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Oral Cancer: Signs, symptoms and risk factors

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According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 41,380 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.

Oral cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the oral cavity (the mouth, including the lips), the tonsils or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth).

Symptoms of oral cancer include a lump in the neck or a sore in the mouth or throat that won’t go away, difficulty swallowing, changes in voice and ill-fitting dentures.

Those who have a history of smoking or chewing tobacco and/or alcohol abuse are at higher risk for developing the disease, as well as individuals who have the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Oral cancer is most often initially detected by dentists, as they screen for the disease during routine dental exams.

Once oral cancer is diagnosed, the treatment plan usually involves surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation to decrease the likelihood of the cancer spreading to other tissues or organs and recurrence. Cone Health Cancer Center is using the latest advancements in radiation therapy and technology to specifically target the cancerous cells and areas at risk for spread, while avoiding damage to surrounding, healthy tissue.

Fortunately, when caught early, oral cancer is a very treatable disease. Therefore, it is extremely important to get regular dental exams to be screened for the disease.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Sarah Squire is a radiation oncologist at the Cone Health Cancer Center. Dr. Squire is a 2006 graduate of Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. She completed an internship at East Tennessee State University in 2007 and her residency in radiation oncology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in 2011.