What was once considered an old man's disease is now crossing over into younger and younger generations. Why? As the world's sixth most common cancer today, 75% of oral cancer is related to lifestyle choices. Furthermore, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, what used to affect six men for every woman, oral cancer now affects one woman to every two men, indicating an increase of the disease among females. With approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people nationwide diagnosed annually, only around 50% of those will be alive in five years.
Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that forms in tissues of the oral cavity (the mouth) or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). The oral cavity includes the lips, the lining inside the cheeks and lips, the front two thirds of the tongue, the upper and lower gums, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, the bony roof of the mouth, and the small area behind the wisdom teeth.
Oral cancer sometimes does not produce symptoms, and is therefore often detected in its later stages. When a patient does exhibit symptoms, these can include difficulty or pain while chewing, swallowing, or speaking; swelling or bumps on the lips, gums or other regions inside the mouth; and a perpetually sore throat.
Treatment for oral cancer varies by the tumor’s location and stage, says Dana-Farber’s Robert Haddad, MD, disease center leader of the Head and Neck Oncology Program. When oral cancer is detected early, most patients are treated with either surgery to remove the cancer or radiation therapy. Haddad recommends Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a form of radiation treatment that minimizes damage to normal tissue. Chemotherapy may also be given in combination with radiation following surgery to remove the cancer.
The HNC Fund facilitates comprehensive financial support for the well-being of one Head and Neck Cancer patient a year.
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