Prognosis of Oral Cancer

By  , Expert Content
Aug 21, 2012

Oral cancers are a type of head and neck cancer that develops in the mouth. They comprise about 85% of head and neck cancer. Thousands of oral cancers are diagnosed each year worldwide. It mostly occurs on the lips or the tongue, but can involve other tissues in the mouth, such as the cheek lining, floor of the mouth, gums (gingiva) and roof of the mouth (palate). A person with oral cancer or in fact any type of cancer wants to know the prognosis or long term outlook. Prognosis helps the patient to understand his or her chances of cure or recurrence (return) of disease and other associated problems which may develop.

Some factors which determine the prognosis (chances of cure and risk for recurrence) of oral cancer include:

  • location of the cancer
  • stage of cancer (size of the tumour, extent of spread to lymph nodes, other organs and other parts of the body).
  • grade of tumour (degree of abnormality of cancer cells and how quickly the cells grow and spread).
  • factors such as age, general health, and response to treatment.

When prognosis of any cancer is discussed the doctor will consider the five year survival rate. Survival rates of a cancer indicate the proportion of people with a certain type and stage of cancer who live for a specific period of time after their diagnosis. The five year survival rate indicates the percentage of people with the disease who are still alive five years after diagnosis (factors such as signs or symptoms of cancer, presence or absence of disease, or treatment are not considered).

Prognosis of oral cancer

Studies suggest that the 5-year survival rate of oral cancer is about 50 per cent, i.e. about 50  of people with oral cancer are alive for more than 5 years after diagnosis.

The rate of death for oral cancer is higher than many of the other common cancers, such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes or skin cancer (malignant melanoma). Death rate for oral cancers is higher because many people with this cancer are diagnosed late in the course of disease because in early stages many people do not exhibit noticeable symptoms.

Cure rate of oral cancer diagnosed in early stages is about 90 per cent. However in many cases oral cancer is diagnosed after it has spread to another location, most commonly to lymph nodes of the neck. According to research 25 per cent of people with oral cancer die because of delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Besides death, patients treated with oral cancer have to face many other consequences of their treatment.After treatment of cancer they can develop facial disfigurement, difficulty in eating, drinking and speaking. These can often result in depression, nutritional deficiency and poor quality of life.



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