Mouth cancer or Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. Second, in line with Lung cancer among men, oral cancer is also becoming prevalent among women.
Mouth cancer looks like growth, irritation or soreness in the oral region, which is persistent with time. Mouth cancer includes cancer of the hard and soft palate, tongue, lip, cheeks, the floor of the mouth, and throat. Let’s get into more details about mouth cancer.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of oral cancer include
- White, reddish or speckled patches in the mouth
- Unexpected bleeding in the oral cavity
- Lumps or swelling with spotting or crust
- Loosening of teeth
- Trouble in wearing dentures
- Sore in the lip or mouth
- Sore throat
- Earache that is persistent
- Difficulty in eating and swallowing
- Ulcers which do not heal
- Difficulting in moving the jaw or tongue
- Difficulty in speaking or change in voice
- Numbness or loss of feeling in the mouth or neck region
- Unexpected weight loss
In case you notice any such symptoms which are persistent for over two weeks and are not healing, you should visit a dentist or your doctor. Hospitals like Omega Hospital Banjara Hills are dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancers.
What are the Causes?
The major and most common cause for Mouth Cancer is the use of Tobacco.
Tobacco use of any kind, which includes bidis, cigarettes and alcohol consumption, increases the chances of Mouth cancer.
HPV infection, which is a sexually transmitted disease, is also identified as a cause of Mouth Cancer.
What are the Risk Factors?
Some factors which increase the risk for an individual to have Mouth cancer include
- Heavy consumption of tobacco
- Use of smokeless tobacco
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Excessive sun exposure to the mouth, especially the lips
- Sexually transmitted diseases like HPV
- Previous diagnosis of mouth cancer which was treated
- Family history of cancer
- Weakened immunity
- Poor nutrition
- Older age
- Genetic syndromes
Till now, Mouth Cancer has been more common in men. But as the percentage of women who smoke increases, the incidence of Mouth cancer in females increases too.
What are the Diagnostic measures?
A doctor will go through your medical history, do a check-up and advise some diagnostic tests.
These tests include
- Physical Examination
The dentist or doctor examins the oral cavity for symptoms like redness, ulcers, growths or lumps.
The doctor takes a small tissue sample to examine it under a microscope for evidence of cancer, or any pre-cancerous changes.
- Imaging Tests
Imaging tests may be advised to see the extent of mouth cancer in severe cases. Imaging also helps identify if cancer has spread to other organs or body parts. These imaging tests may include X-Ray, CT scan, PET scan, and MRI.
Some hospitals, including Omega Hospital Banjara Hills, have full body checkups and dedicated check-ups for Cancer screening, for early detection of Cancer.
What are the treatment options?
The treatment for Mouth cancer depends on the type of cancer, location of cancer, its extent, the stage of cancer, as well as, the health of the individual and their immunity.
Treatment options advised by a cancer specialist or dentist include
Surgery is done to remove the growth, as well as some nearby tissue to reduce the reoccurrence rate. Lesions which are too big may require more extensive preparation and methods. In some cases when the tumour is large, the surgeon may have to remove part of the jaw and tongue.
In cases where cancer has spread to the neck, the surgeon will also have to remove the associated lymph nodes and nearby tissues. In such a case, the doctor may recommend added therapies like chemo or radiation.
After the cancer is removed, surgery to reconstruct the jaw and other portions may be undertaken.
- Radiation Therapy
High energy beams, including X-rays and protons, are used to kill mouth cancer. This therapy is commonly used with surgery. In the early stages of mouth cancer, this treatment may be used alone.
Very strong chemicals are used to kill the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is given in cycles, often in combination with cancer surgery or radiation therapy.
- Targetted drug therapy
Drugs are used to modify some aspects of the cancerous cell, to limit their growth. This therapy is also usually used in combination with other therapies.
What are the Preventive options?
Some preventive actions which can help you stay away from Mouth cancer include.
- Stop tobacco consumption or do not begin using it
Tobacco causes exposure of the cells in your oral cavity to harmful chemicals, which cause mutations, and ultimately lead to mouth cancer. Tobacco in any form should be stopped.
- Reduction in alcohol consumption
Alcohol also is a risk factor for mouth cancer. Tobacco with alcohol increases the risk further. it has been identified that almost 25 % of individuals with mouth cancer do not have a history of smoking, but drinking.
- Avoid exposure of harsh sun rays on your skin
Protect your skin with some sunscreen and try to cover your face if you are often out in the sun.
- Visit your dentist regularly
Ideally one should visit a dentist at least once in six months. A routine examination can identify lesions at a very early stage, ultimately improving the prognosis.
- Consume a well-balanced diet
Healthy living with a balanced diet keeps a check on immunity and gives fighting chance, far away from cancer.