Today, let us discuss Signs and Symptoms or oral cancer, it’s causes, oral cancer treatment, prevention, prognosis and everything else you need to know about this life-threatening disease.
Oral or mouth cancer can affect any portion of the mouth, such cancers are located in the oral cavity. It can occur in the salivary glands, larynx, sinus, pharynx, on the surface of the tongue, lips, inside the cheeks or gums, in the tonsils, or on the roof or floor of the mouth. Mouth cancer comes into the category of head and neck cancer. It is the eleventh most common cancer found in the world.
It is slowly becoming a graver problem especially in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Taiwan. This is due to the excessive tobacco consumption in its various forms, especially by those people belonging to the lower economic strata of the society. Gradually, oral cancer is gaining the reputation of being “the poor man’s disease.” South and South-East Asian countries are witnessing the widespread prevalence of the disease, accounting for nearly 1/5th of oral cancer cases. This is due to the lack of efforts aimed at preventing and targeting oral cancer.
Causes of Oral Cancer- How does it Occur
Let’s know what are the oral cancer causes, Oral cancer begins in the squamous (flat, thin) cells that form the lining of the lips and the mouth. Nearly all mouth cancers are squamous carcinomas. Other forms of cancer include verrucous carcinoma, salivary gland carcinoma, lymphomas, and oropharyngeal tumor. The cancerous growth is often accompanied with:
Erythroplakia: Formation of red patches with smooth or granular surfaces, don’t ignore these signs of oral cancer.
Leukoplakia: Deposition of white plaque. It can be homogeneous(wherein the lesions are thin, flat, smooth, white, and uniform) or nonhomogeneous (white or red pinhead sized having a warty appearance)
Oral lichen planus: Formation of interlacing white lines having a reddish border or alternate bands or reddish inflammation and ulceration.
Mouth cancer begins when the cells and the cell linings experience mutation in the DNA. Due to this mutation, cancer cells continue growing and dividing, which results in the abnormal accumulation of these cells causing a tumor formation. These cells then spread and grow in the other parts of the mouth. Cancer commences in the form of small ulcers, growths, and lesions.
Main Causes of Oral Cancer
The exact cause of oral cancer is unknown. However, certain lifestyle factors could contribute to the development of mouth cancer. The general causes could be:
- Gender – Oropharyngeal cancer or oral cancer is twice as common in males as in females. This could be due to the difference in the variance of the alcohol and tobacco consumption between the sexes and use of tobacco is said to the major cause of Oral Cancer.
- Age – The global average age of oral cancer is 62 years.
- UV rays – Mouth cancer of the lip is more frequent amongst those who work outdoors in the sun or undergo prolonged exposure to the sun. So, it can be stated that Ultraviolet radiations of the Sun are a cause of Oral or Mouth cancer.
- Poor diet – Consuming a diet that is deficient in fruits and vegetables could be a cause of oral cancer or Oropharyngeal cancer.
- Genetic factors – Although the chances of contracting neck or head cancer are lower as compared to other types of cancer, it still is moderately possible to inherit oral cancer from generation to generation.
- Chronic trauma – chronic trauma resulting from restoration, sharp teeth, dentures can also possibly cause oral cancer.
Apart from this, the two main identified causes of oral cancer are tobacco and alcohol. The following is a list of comprehensive factors that can put you at risk of oral cancer:
- Tobacco of any kind – Including cigars, cigarette, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, and others.
- Chewing betel quid substitutes such as gutkha, misri, khaini, gudakhu, nass, naswar, and mawa.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Chewing areca nut – usually wrapped in betel leaves and also available in pan masalas
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV 16) – a sexually transmitted disease, which can modulate the process of carcinogenesis in those who consume alcohol or smoke often. On the other side, it can also act as an oncogenic agent among those who are non-smokers.
- Weak immune system or introducing immunity-suppressing drugs into the system can also be a cause of Oral Cancer.
Most cases of oral cancer occur after the person reaches the age of 40.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
An early diagnosis and observance of Oral Cancer signs and symptoms can save your life. You can consult your dentist to carry out a quick examination, which will be quick and painless. However, there are some signs and symptoms that you can look out for to identify oral cancer. The following are the said sign and oral cancer symptom that could indicate the onset of the disease:
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
- Lumps, swellings, or thick patches in or around the mouth and the throat are the major symptoms of Oral cancer
- Trismus Dysphagia is a major symptom of Oral Cancer
- Unusual change in the surface of the mouth or the tongue.
- Persistent pain in the mouth for weeks or months can also be symptom of Oral Cancer
- Abnormal bleeding of the mouth
- Obstruction of the airways
- Indurated areas
- Sores in or around the mouth that refuses to heal are a major oral cancer symptoms: Skin and mouth cancer may result in the formation of sores that resemble long-lasting sore that refuses to heal.
- Altered vision
- Lump formation or thickening of the cheek.
- Regions of red and/or white lesions in the mouth, tongue, tonsils or the lips
- Small white colored patches or the presence of white spots inside the mouth or on the tongue
- The feeling that a lump or phlegm is stuck in the back of the throat
- Swelling in the mouth that makes wearing dentures uncomfortable
- Numbness, soreness, or pain in any area of the mouth (including the tongue)
- Pain in one ear, but hearing is unaffected
- Experiencing difficulty while moving the jaw or tongue
- Problems with swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Loose and weakened teeth without any dental condition
- Hoarseness in the throat or changes in the voice or tonality
If any of such symptoms of Oral Cancer persist for days or weeks, you should consult a dentist or a Cancer Treatment hospital or specialist and get an oral test done.
Oral Cancer Prevention
As it goes with all diseases, prevention is better than cure. If You are observing or feeling any of the above-mentioned Symptom of Oral Cancer you should consult a specialist and start the preventions ASAP. Since there are no identified causes of oral cancer, there can be no scientifically proven ways of Oral Cancer prevention. Nevertheless, you can follow some preventive tips that reduce the chances of development of oral cancer.
Here are the ways to reduce the risk of mouth cancer:
Stop the consumption of tobacco or do not start at all
If you consume tobacco in any form, whether through chewing or smoking, the first thing that you should do is absolutely avoid tobacco at all costs. Using tobacco is a major cause of oral cancer which exposes the cells of your mouth to carcinogens, cancer causing elements.
If you cannot quit alcohol, try to consume in a controlled way
Drinking alcohol excessively can agitate the skins in the lining of the mouth, putting you at a greater risk of oral cancer. However, if you do drink alcohol, then do so in moderation. If you are a woman limit your alcohol consumption to one drink daily. Men should drink nothing more than two drinks in a day for a proper prevention of Oral cancer.
Also Read: Does Alcohol Cause Cancer
Include fruits and vegetables in your diet
Consume a healthy diet regularly to prevent oral cancer. Healthy diet always contains the significant presence of fresh vegetables and fruits. These foods contain antioxidants and vitamins that can help in oral cancer prevention.
Also Read: 12 Cancer causing foods you must avoid
Avoid excess sun exposure to lips
Protect the skin of your lips from the harsh rays of the sun by staying in the shade. When stepping out in the sun, wear a broad-brimmed hat that can offer shade to your face, especially your mouth. Apply sunscreen lotion to your lips as a part of your sun protection routine to prevent Oral Cancer.
Visit your dentist periodically
Ensure that you visit your dentist regularly for the prevention of Oral or mouth cancer. Request your dentist to examine your mouth to test for any abnormal growths that may indicate the growth of tumours and oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
When prevention of oral cancer fails then the inexpensive screening and treatment is the only way to avoid mortality in the case of oral cancer. Early diagnosis, as well as the treatment of oral cancer, can drastically decrease the mortality rate. The diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer begin from the visual screening conducted by a healthcare expert such as a dentist or a general practitioner. The abnormal growth or tumor formation could also be consulted to an oncologist. The ability to visually screen out oral cancer comes from experience and training that this personnel receives.
Once the cancer is detected, oncologists use the TNM staging system to understand the oral cancer stage. T represents the size of the primary tumor and to what extent it has spread. N indicates the extent to which cancer has spread in the lymph nodes of the neck. M depicts how many distant organs cancer has affected. This data is collected after conducting a number of tests such as X-rays, Computerised Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan of the mandible, chest, and maxillary sinuses. A biopsy may also be recommended by the doctor for a concrete cancer diagnosis.
The early detection and treatment of oral cancer can prevent the devastating effects of an otherwise preventable form of cancer. Another aspect of cancer prevention involves spreading awareness among the common masses. Once the general public is aware of the negative implications of tobacco and alcohol, the risks of developing oral cancer is greatly reduced.
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