Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and damage surrounding tissue . Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Causes of oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treats on time .

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Swelling / thickening, lumps or bumps, spots / scabs / or rough eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth.
  • The development of velvety white, red, or mottled (white and red) mouth patches.
  • Unexplained bleeding from the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of sensation, or pain / tenderness in any area of ​​the face, mouth, or neck.
  • Persistent lesions on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks.
  • A pain or feeling that something is stuck in the back of the throat.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or voice changes.
  • Earache.
  • A change in the way teeth or dentures fit together.
  • Significant weight loss

If you notice any of these changes, contact your dentist or healthcare professional immediately because they could be the causes of oral cancer .

Who is more likely to get oral cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women , and men who are over 50 years of age face the highest risk of oral cancer causes. It is estimated that more than 40,000 people in the US were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014.

Risk factors for the development of oral cancer

To smoke. Cigar or pipe smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer .
Smokeless tobacco users. People who chew tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop cancer of the cheek, gums and lining of the lips.
Excessive alcohol consumption. Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in non-drinkers.
Family history of cancer.
Excessive sun exposure , especially at a young age.
The human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain strains of HPV are etiological risk factors of the oropharynx in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

It is important to note that more than 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally.

What’s the outlook for people with oral cancer?

The overall survival rate is 1 year for patients with all stages of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx is 81%. The 5-year and 10-year survival rates are 56% and 41%, respectively.

How is oral cancer diagnosed?

As part of your routine dental exam, your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening. More specifically, your dentist can detect lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. When examining your mouth, your dentist will look for any wounds or discolored tissue, as well as checking for the signs and symptoms mentioned above to ascertain whether or not they are the possible causes of oral cancer.

Your dentist can perform a brush biopsy if he or she sees tissue in your mouth that looks suspicious . This test is painless and involves taking a small sample of tissue and testing it for abnormal cells. Alternatively, if the tissue looks more suspicious, your dentist may recommend a scalpel biopsy. This procedure generally requires local anesthesia and can be performed by your dentist or a specialist. These tests are necessary to detect oral cancer early, before it has had a chance to progress and spread.

How is oral cancer treated?

The cancer oral is treated in the same way many other cancers are treated – in the conventional manner, with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, followed by radiation and / or chemotherapy (treatment with drugs) to destroy any remaining cancer cells .

What can I do to prevent oral cancer?

  1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation (and refrain from heavy drinking).
  2. Eat a well balanced diet .
  3. Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of lip cancer, especially the lower lip. When in the sun, use sunscreen lotions on your skin as well as your lips.

You can take an active role in detecting oral cancer early

  • Perform a self-exam at least once a month.
  • Using bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and forehead of your gums.
  • Tilt your head back and look and feel the roof of your mouth.
  • Open your cheeks and see the inside of your mouth, the lining of the cheeks and the back of the gums .
  • Stick out your tongue and look at the entire surface; examine the floor of the mouth.
  • Look at the back of the throat. To detect enlarged lymph nodes or lumps on both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw.
  • Call your dentist’s office immediately if you notice any change in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms listed above.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Although you can perform frequent self-exams, stitches or sometimes dangerous mouth sores , they can be very small and difficult to see on your own.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screenings every 3 years for people 20 years of age and older and annually for those 40 years of age and older.
  • At your next dental appointment, ask your dentist for an oral exam. Early detection can increase the chances of successful treatment.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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