Jim Cate says a trip to his dentist may have saved his life.
Jim Cate says, "It was a series of event that I held off and had not done anything about it soon enough there could have been some disastrous results."
Jim who smoked for nearly 20 years when he was younger was diagnosed with oral cancer.
Cate says, "You may see the scar on my neck here, but the scar goes all the way around and back up here."
The death rate associated with oral cancer is high because the cancers are routinely discovered late in their development which is why it is so important to watch out for certain symptoms.
Those symptoms include:
Dr. Marcus Wagner with CHI Memorial Hospital says although some of these may seem like common symptoms, it should be a red flag if they linger.
Dr. Wagner says, "If these symptoms last longer or more than a couple of weeks, you see something that doesn't seem right, you should really go and have yourself examined by a doctor."
If caught early Dr. Wagner says surgery can often eliminate all of the cancer, but more advanced cases require radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Wagner says, "Great efforts have been made on helping people stop smoking, now the most common cause is the HPV virus, the same virus that has been involved with cervical cancer."
Jim still can't chew on one side of his mouth, but he says that's a small price to pay. He's just thankful he has more time with his family.
Jim Cate says, "Life becomes more dear, your family becomes more important."