Oral cancer is a serious condition when it comes to your oral health. It is cancer that develops in the oral cavity, which includes the tissues of the mouth, the anterior part of the mouth and the throat area. Studies say that over 30,000 cases or oral cancer are diagnosed every year in the USA, out of which 7000 patients fail to beat cancer. However, treating oral cancer in its early stages would arrest the infection.
Oral cancer mostly begins with the squamous cells which line the inner walls of the mouth, lips and the tongue. It can affect the lips, salivary glands, tongue, gums, the floor of the mouth, the palate, the inner walls of the cheeks, tonsils, uvula, throat, face, etc.
What are the common symptoms of oral cancer?
- Sores in the mouth that don't heal
- Bleeding in the mouth, i.e. from the gums, tongue, inner lining tissues, etc.
- A thick lump in the mouth, indicating the cancer cells
- Persistent bad breath
- Numbness in the tongue and lips
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing food
- Change in the voice in case of cancer in the throat, i.e. coarse voice
- Red or white patches in the mouth, mostly on the inner lining of the mouth.
How do we prevent the onset of oral cancer?
- Professional care and observation: During your biannual dental check-up, the dentist would check for any signs of oral cancer. The first step in the examination would be visual observation. The dentist would check for any sores and ulcers in the mouth. Also, any bleeding tissues would also be carefully examined. As an advanced method of screening for oral cancer, laser treatment can be used. This allows the dentist to look for signs in the underlying tissues, which aren't visible to the naked eye. If any abnormalities are apparent, then the dentist would create a suitable treatment plan for you. But, if the tissues do not respond to the treatment, then a biopsy would be recommended. This would give the dentist a better idea of the lesion and if it's cancer or not.
- Personal observation: You can also look for signs of oral cancer at home. Open your mouth wide and look for red or white patches on the tongue, the inner lining of the mouth, under the tongue, the back of the mouth, the palate, and the gums. Sometimes, they may bleed as well. In that case, visiting a dentist would be necessary in order to get a professional opinion.
- Changes in your lifestyle: In most cases, oral cancer is either caused by excessive smoking or chewing of tobacco. The carcinogens present in them would infect the tissues of the mouth. Sometimes, excessive consumption of alcohol can also cause oral cancer. Sometimes, quitting smoking helps reduce the lesions and sores in the mouth.
In case oral cancer hasn't been stopped in the primary stages itself, treatment options such as excision, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used to treat cancer.