Oral Cancer is a collective term for the cancers of the tongue, lips, cheeks, hard palate, soft palate, floor of the mouth, sinuses and pharynx/throat. This appears as a mouth sore that does not go away like the nonthreatening canker sore. Oral cancer can be fatal if not detected and treated early.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The most common sign of oral cancer is an unusual growth in any part of the mouth. The growth can be:
- rough spot
- crust or thickening in the lips, gums, or any other parts of the mouth
Another common sign is the emergency of white, red, or speckled spots in the mouth.
Other signs are:
- ear pain
- hoarseness of voice
- dramatic weight loss
- unexplained numbness
- unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- difficulty swallowing, chewing and speaking
- feeling that something is stuck in the throat
- pain and tenderness in the face, mouth, or neck
- persistent sores that do not heal even after several weeks
Who are at Risk?
According to the American Cancer Society, men are twice more prone to oral cancer than women. Men who are above 50 years old are at increased risk of this form of cancer. In 2008, more than 35,000 people were diagnosed with this form of cancer.
Risk factors include:
- family history
- excessive sun exposure
- excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy drinkers are six times at greater risk than nondrinkers.
- smoking: People who smoke cigarettes, cigar, or pipes are six times more vulnerable than nonsmokers.
However, it's important to note that about a fourth of oral cancer cases occur in people who are nonsmokers and occasional drinkers.
What is the Outlook for People with Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer patients have 81 percent one-year survival rate, no matter what the stage of cancer is. The five- and 10-year survival rates are about 50 percent and 40 percent respectively.
How is this form of cancer Diagnosed?
If you go to the dentist for a routine dental exam, the dentist will conduct screening exam for oral cancer.
- He/she will determine if there is any presence of lumps or tissue changes in the head, face, neck, and oral cavity.
- He/she will also search for any sore and the other signs and symptoms mentioned earlier.
- An oral brush biopsy will then be performed if the dentist finds any suspicious looking tissues inside the mouth. In this test, the dentist will take a sample of the tissue to analyze it and see if there any abnormal cells.
- Your dentist may also recommend scalpel biopsy, which typically requires local anesthesia.
These tests are done to conduct oral cancer early before it worsens and spreads.
What are the Available Treatments for Oral Cancer?
Method of treatment is similar to other forms of cancer:
- First, the cancerous growth is removed through a surgery.
- This is followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy to destroy the remnant cancer cells.
Can Oral Cancer be Prevented?
Looking at the risk factors stated earlier, you already have an idea how this form of cancer can be prevented.
To lower your risk:
- drink alcohol in moderation
- do not smoke or use any tobacco products
- live a healthy lifestyle such as eating a nutritionally balanced diet
- limit your exposure to the sun and always use protective lotions such as sunscreen for UVA and UVB rays on your skin and lips