What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a disease caused by malignant or cancerous cells found in the cell lining within the oral cavity (mouth). If this condition is not treated at the right time, it can be life-threatening. Research has claimed that the main causes of oral cancer are tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. However, many other factors may be responsible for oral cancer. Read on to learn more about oral cancer.
Different Types of Oral Cancer
These are the common types of oral cancer:
- carcinoma of skin cells
This is the most common type of oral cancer. Research suggests that about 90% of people with oral cancer have squamous cell carcinoma. Abnormal uncontrolled growth of cancerous (squamous) cells in the oral cavity.
- Verrucous carcinoma
It is a rare but existing form of oral cancer that results in 5% of oral cancer cases. Research suggests that this cancer is caused by the use of tobacco.
- Minor Salivary Gland Carcinoma
It is a type of cancer that originates in the salivary glands inside the mouth. They can cause cancer of the mouth and throat. They can also give rise to cystic carcinoma, mucoid carcinoma, polymorphous carcinoma, and low-grade carcinoma.
- Oropharyngeal tumor
They are cancerous or benign (non-cancerous) tumors caused by human papillomavirus or excessive smoking.
- Leukoplakia linked to Oral Cancer
This is a specific type of condition often associated with oral cancer. This is caused by the formation of “white spots” known as leukoplakia, which can also be benign (not cancerous). But leukoplakia in particular has been one of the precursors to the early stage of cancer. Leukoplakia patches sometimes found in men and women who smoke or use tobacco are tested for and found to be one of the earliest indicators of oral cancer.
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Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Symptoms of oral cancer are often found in the later stages, especially during the outbreak of the disease. This is because the early signs of oral cancer have minimal signs and symptoms and often the symptoms mimic those of mouth ulcers. It is recommended that you see your doctor, preferably a dentist/general practitioner, if you have the following:
- A white or reddish patch on the lining of the oral cavity (mouth) lasting more than 3 weeks.
- Sore throat that lasts more than 1 month.
- Mouth ulcers that don’t heal for more than 3-4 weeks.
- An unusual lump or tumor on the walls or lining of the oral cavity (mouth).
- Without teeth, a Loose or collapsed throat makes swallowing difficult.
- Changes in voice, such as sudden hoarseness or loss of voice.
- Pain in the opening of the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue, ear, neck, and tonsil area should not be ignored for more than 2-3 weeks and should be investigated immediately to rule out early stages of oral cancer.
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Causes And Risk Factors
Oral cancer or oral cancer can occur in both men and women. But it has been observed that men suffer from oral cancer twice as compared as women. According to researchers, children and young adults rarely get oral cancer. However, the main cause and risk factor for oral cancer can be attributed to (orally) tobacco use. The infamous readily available forms of tobacco such as pan masala, and gutkha powder containing tobacco as the main ingredient is responsible for the onset and spread of this disease. However, other factors can put you at an increased risk of oral cancer.
Read below for other factors :
Tobacco is a known and researched culprit not only in oral cancer but also in throat cancer. Tobacco use in any of its forms (cigarettes, powder) causes aggressive forms of life-threatening cancer.
The liquor itself is not a carcinogen. But it may surprise many that the way the body metabolizes alcohol can predispose people to a variety of cancers, including oral cancer. Consuming alcohol with tobacco doubles the risk of oral cancer.
- Betel leaf
Paan leaves or known as betel leaves have a unique property that blends in the mouth and allows its enzymes to penetrate the lining of the mouth. The betel leaf itself does not cause oral cancer, but researchers suggest that people living in Southeast Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan consume it in excess along with tobacco. Thus, it makes you prone to cancer of the mouth and throat.
There have been medical cases in which people have developed oral cancer despite not consuming tobacco or alcohol. This is because there is a possibility that cancer genes can be passed from parents to their offspring. Although it is rare, it does exist. Therefore, people whose parents or close relatives have oral cancer should have regular check-ups to prevent oral cancer.
- Weak Immune System
Oral cancer also occurs when a person’s immune system is weak. Research suggests that a weakened immune system invites many health conditions, including cancer, to invade bacteria and pathogens.
- Human Papillomavirus
Medical researchers and researchers say that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most frequent causes of cancer of the mouth and throat. It is believed that HPV is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. Human papillomaviruses are present in both the vagina of infected women and the penis of men. Doctors say that oral sex is one of the most common ways to spread HPV that causes oral cancer. Testing for human papillomavirus is strongly recommended for sexually active men and women to prevent all types of cancer.
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Diagnosis of Oral Cancer
The first step in diagnosing this disease is a thorough and thorough physical examination.
- Physical Examination
Your dentist/general practitioner will first examine your lips, gums, the lining of the wall of the mouth, tonsil area, upper palate, and tongue to locate the site of injury.
- Patch/Tissue Test
After locating and inspecting the suspicious site or lesion, a patch (sample cells) or a portion of a sore ulcer (sample cells) is stained and analyzed for malignancy (cancer) in the laboratory. This test not only determines whether the cells are cancerous or not but also predicts the stage and type of cancer. By performing this test, doctors can predict the future course of action for the patient, such as drugs, treatments, and surgery.
A camera is inserted through the oral cavity (mouth) to view large-scale areas and patches to determine the spread and stage of the disease. This procedure is known as endoscopy and is usually painless and has minimal chances of scarring. Apart from all the above procedures, when the doctor suspects oral cancer, a CT scan and MRI are mandatory. In doing so, the doctor confirms the stage, type, and spread of the disease.
Oral Cancer Stages
The stage of the disease is often scaled using Roman numerals (I–IV). Stage I refers to the early onset of malignancy constrained to a specific site. Stages II and III indicate disease progression and stage IV indicates the spread and high intensity of the disease.
With the advancement of medical science, successful treatments are available for patients with oral cancer depending on the stage and type. The Global Study of Oral Cancer indicates that 90 percent of live oral cancer patients are detected at an earlier stage. Oral cancer treatment is usually a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and removal of the affected areas.
Radiation therapy uses high-beam X-ray waves to disrupt and kill rapidly growing abnormal cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used in all types of cancer to shrink the tumor. Clinical studies suggest that stage 1 oral cancer requires minimal surgery and that by taking radiation along with anticancer drugs, oral cancer can be effectively fought and defeated.
Chemotherapy therapy is a procedure in which different combinations of anticancer drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream to attack rapidly spreading cancer cells. In the case of oral cancer, with special reference to oropharyngeal cancer, chemotherapy treatment is very effective. Common chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of oral cancer are cisplatin, carboplatin, and hydroxyurea. However, chemotherapy has its advantages and side effects. You may experience nausea, vomiting, loss of sensation, and loss of appetite during chemotherapy treatment. However, after successful cycles of chemotherapy, most side effects gradually subside and the person can lead a normal life after completing the cycle of chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most common procedure performed in cases of oral cancer. But it is highly recommended that the surgery be performed by an experienced oncology surgeon rather than a general surgeon. This is because an oncology surgeon is a specially trained surgeon who performs surgery to remove and stop the spread of cancer. They use the latest precision technology and surgical procedures to ensure the complete eradication of oral cancer.
Clinical studies have confirmed that surgery of the oral cavity (mouth) is extensive surgery and can sometimes lead to deformities of the face and mouth. There may be a chance you will need a tube after surgery and extra help with food and medicine. There is also a chance that you may lose your vocal abilities (voice) temporarily or permanently. However, at the same time, one should not fear the side effects and go ahead with surgery as the spread of cancer in the oral cavity can be fatal if not treated on time.
Complications of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer, as you already know, can be fatal if not treated on time. In addition, there are some complications and risks that are associated with oral cancer.
After the onset of this disease, many people find it very difficult to consume completely nutritious food. This is because the entire oral cavity (tongue, palate, jaw, etc.) is affected, and even completely opening the mouth and chewing food is very difficult. There may be a condition called dysphagia that is characterized by difficulty swallowing food, therefore, after oral cancer surgery, medical insertion of tubes through which food is passed is strongly recommended for patients.
- A Voice Breaks
It is a common co-existing condition of oral cancer as cancer cells spread to the throat and larynx. Patients often experience a change in tone of voice that often affects their speech. People with oral cancer may need speech therapy to regain the ability to speak and communicate. Today, with the advancement of medical science, there are devices available that help oral cancer patients communicate with full voice blockage.
As we all know, oral cancer is a chronic condition followed by long-term oral and chemotherapy drugs and major surgery. Oral cancer patients develop negative psychotic effects due to social and psychological factors and monotonous management of the disease. Researchers claim that cancer patients, even after successful surgery and treatment, fall into depression due to strong drugs and fear of recurrence of the disease. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants to cancer patients to help them overcome depression.
- Emotional Balance
This is quite easy to do, but it is very important to strike a balance because emotional health is just as important as physical health. Research confirms that sometimes it is not easy for a patient to accept that their life will never return to normal after surgery or oral cancer treatment. Malnutrition followed by a facial deformity, speech impediment, and dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing food) has a profound impact not only on the patient but also on his family. Therefore, maintaining emotional balance is very important for caregivers, family members, and patients.
Oral cancer or Mouth Cancer, as it is known, is a malignant (cancerous) condition that affects people of any gender and all ages. Research indicates that its occurrence is more frequent in the middle age group (29–50 years), resulting in early mortality. Global statistics on oral cancer show that oral cancer is among the top three cancers affecting the Indian subcontinent mainly due to excessive tobacco use. However, with the advancement of medical science, oral cancer can be treated effectively if detected at an early stage. Treatments for oral cancer include targeted drug therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and oral cavity tumor surgery. Read on to know all about oral cancer.
(Disclaimer: Information provided in this piece of article is purely for educational purposes only. All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s data to make an accurate diagnosis.)
- National Cancer Institute. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Oral Cavity, Pharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancer Prevention
- The Oral Cancer Foundation. Newport Beach Ca. Dental Articles .
- Mangalath U, Aslam SA, Abdul Khadar AH, Francis PG, Mikacha MS, Kalathingal JH. Recent trends in prevention of oral cancer.
- National Cancer Institute. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment