Mouth and throat cancers, also known as Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers, are cancers which typically affect the tongue, tonsils, oropharynx and other parts of the mouth. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 53,260 people will be diagnosed with Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers and 10,750 individuals will die of these cancers within 2020. This form of cancer more heavily affects men than women, with more than twice the amount of men being diagnosed every year.
According to the American Cancer Society, the most common sign of early stage mouth and throat cancer is a sore in the mouth which does not heal, followed by constant pain within the mouth. More signs include a lump or thickening of the cheek, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and trouble breathing or speaking. Typically, these forms of cancers are found in individuals over 50 who are smokers or consumers of alcohol. Recently there has been a rise in individuals in their 30’s and 40’s, who are not smokers, which has been linked to HPV.
Screening is recommended for individuals who use tobacco and/or alcohol products, or who have a partner who is HPV positive. Both of these factors increase your risk level of developing mouth and throat cancers. Finding cancer at an early stage helps increase a patient's likelihood of fully recovering and prevents the spread of cancer. Screening is available for mouth and throat cancers at Swedish Cancer Institute. Screenings also may be offered at your dentist office. Talk to your dentist to see if the services are offered and covered by your healthcare provider.
Mouth and throat cancer screening begins with performing physical examinations of the areas. Visibly looking for red or white patches or sores and feeling for lumps and any abnormalities. Endoscopes and x-rays may be required as well to further investigate the areas. Biopsies and tissue analysis are then performed to look at the tissue to determine if they are cancerous. Staging and the spread of the cancer will determine treatment methods.
Swedish Cancer Institute has many resources available to assist people with getting diagnosed and throughout treatment. For more information about the resources available please check out the Swedish throat and oropharyngeal cancers page: https://www.swedish.org/services/robotic-surgery-program/conditions-we-treat/throat-and-oropharyngeal-cancer