In India, mouth cancer is the third most prevalent form in the ‘head and neck’ cancer category. It can happen anywhere in the mouth- the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, on the lips, the roof or floor of the mouth or gums. Most cases of oral cancer occur after the age of 40 and they are more common in men than women.
What are the early warning signs of oral cancer?
In the early stages, the signs of oral cancer can be quite subtle. The signs to watch out for are:
- Recurrence of ulcers and sores inside your mouth.
- Unusual patches of red or whitish skin along the lining of your mouth
- Swellings which might be painful
- Teeth loosening for no apparent reason
- Pain in the jaws or gums
- Sudden thickening of mouth skin
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Stiffness or pain along the length of the tongue
- Soreness of throat
- Voice becoming hoarse
- Pain in the neck extending all the way up to the ears.
- A feeling that there is something stuck at the back of your mouth.
If you are a smoker or heavy drinker, you should go for regular dental check-ups and keep an eye out for the above-mentioned symptoms.
What causes oral cancer?
Doctors have not yet identified the exact cause of mouth cancer. But there is a direct link between high incidence rates of cancer and tobacco use. Smokers are actually 3 times more likely to get cancer than non-smokers are. The International Agency for Research on Cancer identified tobacco as a carcinogen many years ago. It can lead to a mutation of the DNA of the cells of the mouth. When the unnatural cells begin to divide and spread rapidly, it becomes a case of oral cancer.
Moreover, a diet comprising red meat, fried and processed foods can up the risk of mouth cancer.
Diagnosis of oral cancer
If you notice any of the danger signs, visit a dentist at the earliest. An examination of the mouth is painless and quick. If the doctor feels there is a cause of concern, you might have to undergo a biopsy of the affected area. It means the extraction of a few tissues, which will be studied to see if the cells there are multiplying unnaturally.
Treatment for early-stage Oral Cancer
The earlier the cancer is detected, the more the chances of vanquishing it completely. Even in its early stages, surgery might be necessary. It includes the removal of the tumor and some of the healthy surrounding tissues to ensure that none of the mutated cells remains. If surgery alters the person’s appearance, then reconstruction surgery will follow.
Another effective treatment is brachytherapy. The surgeon inserts radioactive implants into the diseased tissues. The implants damage the cells’ DNA and do not allow them to divide.
Similarly, the doctor might advise radiation therapy that trains high-powered X-Rays at the affected site to destroy the tumor cells.
Mouth cancer is a dreaded disease and can bring pain and misery to a person’s life. Treatment is possible but it is expensive. It’s wiser to simply exercise some caution and try to prevent it in the first place.