Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oral Cancer

Most of us know how devastating cancer is. We all know someone that has been a victim from some form of cancer. Each year approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with an oral cancer.

An oral cancer can either start within the oral cavity, it may originate from an adjacent site such the sinuses, or it may originate in a distant site and metastasize into the oral cavity.

Whatever the origin of an oral cancer, the prognosis is poor if not diagnosed early. The morbidity rate is quite high. The five year survival rate is approximately 50%. This means that approximately half of the people diagnosed with an oral cancer will not live beyond five years. This is a much less favorable prognosis than Hodkin's lymphoma, cancers of the endocrine system, testes, cervix, thyroid or skin.

There are many potential causative factors. The most common are alcohol, tobacco and HPV (human papilloma virus). I won't go into much discussion here. Much has already been written on these risk factors.

Usually they ancers can be caught early with routine dental examinations. The appearance of the lesions vary greatly. They may start out as white or red lesions. They may even appear blue or black. They may be raised or ulcerated lesions. Sometimes the lesions will be very difficult to see even with good lighting.

We all get lesions that form in our mouths for a variety of reasons such as pizza burns or cuts from sharp foods. If a lesion does not resolve within 14 days, it is imperative that it be evaluated. Many times a visual inspection by a trained medical or dental professional is all that is required. When caught early in the survivable stages, the treatment is much simpler, less invasive and much more predictable.

Lately in discussions with my patients about any problem I've used an odd analogy. Its weird but it makes sense. I say something along the lines of "change your oil, change your engine, change your car or don't drive at all". I prefer to change oil.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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