Almost a week ago, I had surgery to biopsy an area of concern on the same part of my tongue where cancer was found almost exactly 5 years ago. I am still in pain. There are still a few stiches. The area is still raw from the lasering which removed the area of dysplasia. And it still hurts to eat and talk. But it is not cancer. It is not cancer.
Like someone with a history of skin cancer who keeps a close eye on any changing mole, I (with the help of my doctors) keep a close eye on any changes in my mouth. Any soreness. Any red or white areas that do not go away within a few weeks. Any changes that might indicate the oral squamous cell carcinoma I was diagnosed with in 2007 has returned.
According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that 39,400 men and women (27,710 men and 11,690 women) were diagnosed with and 7,900 men and women died of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx in 2011.
At your next dental checkup, ask your dentist for an oral cancer screening. Like most cancers, early detection is key to treatment and survival. Many cases are diagnosed in late stage which leads to more invasive treatment. Thankfully, my oral cancer was caught very early and required only surgery, as well as ongoing diligent observation.
For information about oral cancer, see the links below:
MD Anderson: Oral Cancer Information
American Cancer Society: Oral Cancer
Oral Cancer Foundation