Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 43,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma). If you expand the definition of oral cancers to include cancer of the larynx, for which the risk factors are the same, the numbers of diagnosed cases grow to approximately 54,000 individuals, and 13,500 deaths per year in the U.S. alone. Worldwide the problem is much greater, with over 640,000 new cases being found each year.Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors. This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence. Historically the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.
3 Facts about Oral Cancer you should know
1. Up to 75% of cases of oral cancer may be attributed to tobacco and alcohol use.
2. The overall prevalence of oral HPV infection (a causitive agent of OC) is estimated to be 6.9% in adults aged 14 to 69 years in the United States. However, HPV prevalence can be as high as 20% for persons who have more than 20 lifetime sexual partners or currently use tobacco (more than 1 pack of cigarettes per day).
3. The prevalence of type-specific HPV-16 oral infection is estimated at 1% in adults aged 14 to 69 years (an estimated 2.13 million infected persons). Human papillomavirus-16 is associated with approximately 85% to 95% of cases of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer. Therefore, the increasing role of oral HPV infection as a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer may warrant future assessment of the independent effect of HPV-16 on incidence and outcomes of oropharyngeal cancer and the health effect of screening persons who are HPV-16-positive.