Oral Cancer – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer refers to cancer that occurs in the mouth. Most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous carcinoma is a type of cancer. This type of cancer spreads quickly. Mostly, oral cancer involves the lips or the tongue. It can also occur on the cheek lining, floor of the mouth, gums, or roof of the mouth. Some oral cancers begin as a mouth ulcer or white plaque (leukoplakia).
Men develop oral cancer twice as often as women do. It is more common in men older than 40.
What causes oral cancer?
Smoking and other tobacco use are associated with most cases of oral cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risk for oral cancer.
The following are the other factors that may increase the risk for oral cancer:
- Chronic rubbing in the mouth (such as from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings)
- Poor dental and oral hygiene
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Taking Immunosuppressant medicines
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
First, oral cancer may appear as an ulcer or a lump in the mouth that may be:
- Pale, dark, or discolored
- A deep, hard-edged crack in the tissue
- On the tongue, lip, or other area of the mouth
- Painless at first, then a burning sensation or pain when the tumor is more advanced
The following are the other symptoms of oral cancer:
- Bleeding mouth sores
- Tongue problems
- Pain with swallowing
- Chewing difficulties
- Speech problems
- Swallowing difficulty
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Weight loss
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor/dentist will review the symptoms and examine your mouth area. The doctor/dentist may suspect oral cancer if the exam shows a sore on the lip, tongue, or another area of the mouth or an ulcer or bleeding.
The doctor/dentist may order the following tests to confirm oral cancer:
- Gum biopsy
- Tongue biopsy
If the oral cancer is diagnosed, the doctor/dentist may order x-rays, CT, MRI, or PET scan to determine if cancer has spread to other areas.
How is oral cancer treated?
Doctors usually recommend surgery to remove the tumor if the tumor is small. For larger tumors, doctors use surgery together with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Depending on the type of treatment that is required, the following supportive treatments may be given:
- Speech therapy
- Therapy to help with chewing, swallowing
- Dietary counseling to keep your weight up.
- Help with dry mouth
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.