Oral Cancer – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Oral Cancer – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What is oral cancer?

Tumors that occur on the inside of the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer. Oral cancer can be life-threatening if not treated at an early stage – it can also include cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). Oral cancer or mouth cancer is grouped in a category called head and neck cancers. There are various hospitals in Bangalore that repeatedly offer or have camps for screenings for head and neck cancers. 

What causes Oral Cancer?

Men are twice at risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men over age 50 will have the greatest risk. There could be other causes too but here are a few risk factors that have high chances of developing cancer

  • Smoking cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are more likely to develop oral cancers than nonsmokers
  • Chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the gums, cheek, and lining of the lips.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol is another reason
  • Hereditary
  • Excessive sun exposure, 
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). 
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (GERD)

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Most of the times the symptoms or signs are considered as mere dental problems and ignored. If a dentist’s advice is not taken, cancer can begin to grow and cause major damage. 

  • Presence of patches on the surface of the mouth
  • Tongue appears red and white in colour or tongue pain while swallowing food.
  • Pain in the mouth while chewing food.
  • Mouth sore which bleeds easily
  • Lumps in the mouth or at the floor of the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth and lumps in the neck.
  • Sensation or feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
  • Severe pain in the ear and neck region.
  • Teeth appear to be loose.
  • Bad breath.
  • Change in voice quality which affects the ability to speak.

These are symptoms which could also be signs of other dental problems, it is best to be diagnosed by a professional dental specialist or an orthodontist. 

Diagnosis of Oral Cancer 

A biopsy is carried out, wherein a small tissue or sample cells are removed from the mouth or the lump to check for cancerous cell growth. This is done by using a dental device to cut through the tissue.

The dentist will also do a physical examination of the head, neck or oral cavity place to check for any further lumps. Different kinds of examinations are conducted to see at which stage is cancer:

  • Dental X-ray, CT Scans, is done to predict prognosis.
  • Endoscopy is done to check the throat condition and to see if cancer has spread beyond the mouth.
  • MRI  is usually recommended at later stages depending on the patient’s condition.

How is Oral Cancer treated?

The treatment for oral cancer completely depends on the stage and location of cancer. Also, it’s important to consider the overall health of the patient before undergoing treatment. The treatment could be of one or more combinations.

Surgery: A procedure wherein the tumor is removed by and also the unhealthy tissue surrounding the area is removed to make sure that all cancer cells have been taken out. Cancers may be operated through minor or major extensive procedures. A large tumor would require taking off a part of the jawbone or part of the tongue. If the cancer cells have spread to the neck, the doctor would recommend neck dissection to remove lymph nodes in the neck. Surgeries often affect the appearance of a person, his ability to speak, eat, etc, and for this purpose, doctors recommend reconstruction of mouth.

Radiotherapy: This process is used in cases wherein cancer has not spread to other parts. It helps in killing cancer cells. Usually, this procedure is followed at an early stage of oral cancer. There is external and internal radiation used in this treatment, the external involves the use of a machine to direct radiation beams at cancer. It uses high energy rays similar to x-rays to kill cancer cells. Internal therapy uses a radioactive material called a radioactive isotope. It is placed very close to the tumor or right into the tumour. The radiation kills cancer cells over time. This is also known as Brachytherapy and may sometimes be used for small tumours in the mouth, The radiotherapy has few side effects like dry mouth, thyroid problems, tooth decay etc

Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It is a long procedure and requires a lot of stamina, patience and strong immunity. The side effects of this treatment are complete hair loss, vomiting, nausea during the treatment phase.

Prevention for Oral Cancer

  • Avoid the use of tobacco products, also limit the consumption of alcohol.  
  • Consider limiting spicy foods and try to quit smoking
  • Limit any kind of processed meats and junk foods.
  • Regular dental check-ups are a must to diagnose early signs and symptoms of oral cancer
  • Avoid exposure to UV rays

We recommend oral screening to know any symptoms or signs leading to oral cancer. A lot of people are unaware of this oral screening process and this is one of the reasons oral cancer is not detected at an early stage. Visit our dental speciality in Bangalore for oral screenings.  

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