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SMG News

Oral Cancer – What You Need to Know

Last updated: Apr 22, 2019

In our day-to-day routines, we seldom (if ever) think about taking steps to prevent oral cancer, but we probably should. Approximately 30,000 Americans receive an oral cancer diagnosis each year.  Awareness for cancers of the oral cavity is low and symptoms can be hard to spot. Therefore, these cancers often go undiagnosed until after they have spread, making them difficult to treat. Summit Medical Group head and neck surgeons share some valuable information below on how to keep your mouth as healthy as it can be.

Serena Byrd, MD
Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) / Head and Neck Surgery

“Poor oral hygiene is one of many risk factors for developing oral cavity cancer. The arrangement or condition of the teeth, known as dentition, can result in chronic inflammation and irritation, which can develop into a cancer of the mouth. The most common cancer of the oral cavity is squamous cell carcinoma which can involve the gums, tongue, floor of mouth, or palate. Tobacco and alcohol use also increase risk. Regular trips to the dentist are important, not only for routine dental cleaning but also for close examination of the mucous membrane lining the mouth."



Bryant Lee, MD, FACS
Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) / Head and Neck Surgery

“Smoking cessation and limitation of drinking alcohol are classic recommendations to prevent head and neck cancer. However, there is an emerging population of head and neck cancer patients who have never smoked, and these cancers are driven by human papilloma virus (HPV). It is critical that all children—girls and boys–receive the safe and effective HPV vaccination. This will have a profound affect in prevention of head and neck cancer as well as cervical and anal cancers in future generations.” 

The cancer preventing HPV vaccine is recommended for people ages 9-45. Those between ages 27 and 45 should check with their insurance company about coverage for the HPV vaccine but should consider getting vaccinated even if it is not covered.


Michael Most, MD, FACS
Head and Neck Surgery

“People don’t always know when it’s time to see an ENT. My advice is, if you are experiencing a sore throat, voice changes, neck lumps, or oral cavity ulcers that have not resolved on their own over a period of 2-3 weeks, you should seek care from an ENT. Although these conditions are often benign and nothing to worry about, they can be related to a developing malignancy.”