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Detecting Early Signs of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer

Oral cancer (mouth cancer) is the most common form of head and neck cancer. It typically impacts individuals who are 60 years old and above. Mouth cancer affects your lips the first part of your tongue, the roof, and the floor of the mouth. It also affects your oropharynx – the end of your tongue and the roof of your mouth, your tonsils, and the sides and back of your throat.

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer

Oral cancer is a broad term for cancer that affects the inside of your mouth. Oral cancer may seem like a common problem in your lips or mouth, such as white spots or sores that bleed. The difference between a normal problem and possible cancer is that these changes do not go away. If not treated, oral cancer can spread from your mouth and throat to other parts of your head and neck. About 63% of people with oral cavity cancer survive five years after diagnosis.


Also Read- All You Need to Know About Oral Mucositis


Affection of oral cancer

Overall, about 11 out of 100,000 people will develop oral cancer during their lifetime. Men have a higher chance of getting mouth cancer compared to women. People who are white are more likely to get mouth cancer than black people.

How does oral cancer affect the body?

Oral cancer can harm both your mouth and your oropharynx. Your oropharynx includes parts of your tongue the roof of your mouth and the middle part of your throat which is visible when your mouth is open. Cancer in your oropharynx is called oropharyngeal cancer. This article focuses on oral cancer in your mouth or mouth cavity.

Your oral cavity contains:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Inside the cheks
  • Tounge
  • Mouthparts under tongue
  • Roofparts of mouth
  • Behind wisdom teeth

 Causes of oral cancer

Oral cancer begins in squamous cells in your mouth cavity. Flat cells called squamous cells resemble fish scales when seen under a microscope. When the DNA of normal squamous cells changes, they can turn cancerous and start growing and multiplying. Eventually, these cancer cells may spread from your mouth to other parts of your head, neck, or body. About 75% of people suffering from mouth cancer have the following habits:

  • Smoking
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Ultraviolet Rays (Rearest)
  • Family history of oral cancer (Rearest)

Symptoms of oral cancer

There are many signs and symptoms of oral cancer that can be mistaken for normal problems or changes in your mouth. For example, you may notice patches inside your mouth that you can’t remove by scraping. These patches may be a precancerous condition. All of the following conditions appear as patches in your mouth and throat, but they are different colors:

  • Leukoplakia: These are flat white or gray spots in your mouth or throat.
  • Erythroplakia: These are slightly raised or flat red spots. These spots may bleed when scratched.
  • Erythroleukoplakia: These spots are red and white.

Common signs of oral cancer

  • Sores on your lips or inside your mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks.
  • Rough spots or scaly areas on your lips, gums, or inside your mouth.
  • Areas of your mouth that bleed for no apparent reason.
  • Feeling numb, in pain, or tender in your face, neck, or mouth without any clear reason.
  • Struggling to chew or swallow, speak, or move your jaw or tongue.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • ear ache.
  • Persistent bad breath.

Diagnosis of oral cancer

Your dentist may discover possible oral cancer during your routine checkup. They can perform initial tests or refer you to an mouth and maxillofacial surgeon, or a head and neck surgeon. These experts are ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists.

  • Physical Examination
  • Brush Biopsy or Exfoliative Cytology
  • Incisional Biopsy
  • Indirect Laryngoscopy and Pharyngoscopy
  • Direct (flexible) Pharyngoscopy and Laryngoscopy

Stages of oral cancer

Diagnostic tests help determine the stage of cancer. A stage indicates where the cancer is located, whether it has grown, or if it has spread beyond the surface of the initial area where it was discovered. The tests also check to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of your body. Mouth cancer is staged using the TNM system. T represents the size and location of the primary tumor. N indicates whether the tumor has spread to your lymph nodes. M indicates that the tumor has metastasized, or spread, to other areas of your body.

The stages of oral cancer are:

  • TI: The tumor in your mouth is 2 cm or less.
  • T2: The tumor is between 2 cm and 4 cm in size.
  • T3: The tumor is over 4 centimeters in size.

Treatment of oral Cancer

The three main treatment options for oral thrush are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor about the purpose of all your options, side effects, and ways to manage side effects. Your healthcare provider considers many factors before recommending treatment. Those factors include:

  • The type of mouth cancer you have.
  • If your mouth cancer has spread from the original location to other parts of your mouth and throat or other parts of your body.
  • Your general health.
  • Your age.

Surgeries for oral cancer treatment

  • Primary tumor surgery
  • Glossectomy
  • Mandibulectomy
  • Maxillectomy
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Neck dissection
  • Reconstruction

Other ways to treat oral cancer

  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

Prevention of oral cancer

Oral cancer is preventable and you can play an active role in preventing it. To help prevent mouth cancer, consider the following tips:

  • If you are someone who smokes tobacco, chews tobacco, or uses a water pipe, try to stop or reduce it. Have a conversation with your doctor about programs designed to help you quit smoking.
  • If you are one to drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Remember your sunscreen. Use UV-AB-blocking sunscreen and sunblock on your face.
  • Get vaccinated against human papillomavirus.
  • Take a balanced diet.
  • Get your teeth checked regularly. People between the ages of 20 and 40 should get mouth cancer screening every three years and after the age of 40, annual screening should be done.

The bottom note

Oral cancer is a serious disease that can be treated successfully if detected early. That’s why you must try to visit your dentist twice a year and take time to do a monthly self-examination. There are many ways to prevent mouth cancer and one of the most important ways is to avoid using tobacco products. A cancer diagnosis can be scary. However, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Discuss with your healthcare providers the resources available to assist you in communicating with your friends and family about your mouth cancer.

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