Oral cancer, often known as mouth cancer, is the most frequent type of cancer in the head and neck region.It is a general word for cancer that impacts the mouth's interior.
Lips, the tip of your tongue, the roof and the bottom of your mouth are all affected by oral cancer. It also affects oropharynx that includes parts of tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the middle part of throat that is visible when the mouth is wide open.
Oral cancer may look like a common problem with sores in the mouth and lips that bleed. The only difference between oral cancer and a common problem is that physical changes in mouth do not fade away if it is a potential cancer. If it is left untreated then it can spread throughout the mouth, throat, and to other areas of the head and neck.
Oral cancer is most common in men than in women.
As per reports, about 75 per cent of people who develop oral cancer have the habit of smoking, and drinking regularly and heavily. People having oral cancer are said to spend maximum time in the sun without protecting their lips with sun block. People having family history of oral cancer are at risk.
Symptoms include sores on the lips or inside the mouth that bleed easily, and don't heal in a week or two, rough patches on lips, gums or inside the mouth that bleed without any reason, numbness, pain, tenderness on face, neck or in mouth, difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking, moving your tongue, weight loss, ear ache, chronic bad breath, patches inside mouth. These patches inside mouth are said to be 'pre-cancerous conditions'. These patches are of different colours and are named accordingly. White or grey patches are called leukoplakia, and red patches are called erythroplakia.
Oral cancer may sound scary but if a person follows up with a doctor on a regular basis then oral cancer can be detected early. If detection is made early then treatment can be started as quick as possible. Oral cancer may come to notice if you happen to visit your dentist and he spots potential oral cancer.
Before knowing about the treatment, let us know about the tests. Oral cancer test include physical examination, brush biopsy or exfoliative cytology or scrape biopsy; incisional biopsy, indirect laryngoscopy and pharyngoscopy, direct laryngoscopy and pharyngoscopy. Diagnostic tests help to determine the stage of the cancer, which further describes the location of cancer.
Let us know how these tests are done.
• Physical examination is done by looking and touching inside the mouth.
• Brush biopsy/exfoliative cytology/scrape biopsy is done with a brush. By using light scraping motion, cells are extracted.
• Incisional biopsy is done by cutting off small pieces of tissue to get cells to test for cancer.
• Indirect laryngoscopy and pharyngoscopy is done by a doctor by using a small mirror on a long, thin handle to look at throat, tongue, and part of larynx.
• Laryngoscopy and direct pharyngoscopy is done with the help of endoscope to examine portion of throat and mouth that are invisible.
There are three main treatment options for oral cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The TNM staging method is used to categorise patients with oral cancer.
There are various factors before recommending a particular treatment to a patient such as kind of oral cancer, age, general health, etc.
Surgeries that treat oral cancer
Primary tumour surgery: Here, the doctor removes tumours either through mouth or an incision in the neck.
Glossectomy: It involves the surgical removal of all or part of an individual's tongue.
Mandibulectomy: This procedure is used for treating cancer in the jawbone.
Maxillectomy: It involves the removal of all or part of the patient's hard palate, which is the bony roof of the mouth.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This procedure helps the doctor to know if the cancer has spread beyond where it started.
Neck dissection: It involves removing lymph nodes from the patient's neck.
Following an operation that removes extensive tissue, reconstruction surgery may be done to fill in the gaps left by the tumour.
Sometimes surgeries are combined with radiation therapy, in which powerful radiation is used to expose cancer cells and destroy them; targeted therapy, in which medicine and other substances are used to identify and kill only the cancer cells; immunotherapy, in which the body's immunity is stimulated to wage war against the disease.
Cancer sounds scary, and we all know its negative impact on the human body. Science has advanced a lot, so in many cases, cancer is curable. Also, it is quite a fact that not everyone with cancer can get it cured because of its expense.
As an individual, you must try to prevent oral cancer. The first thing that you must do is avoid smoke and drinking alcohol. It would not be possible to quit smoking and drinking in a day, but you can limit its use initially and gradually build a habit of leaving it. The second preventive measure would be to use sunscreen. The third would be to get a human papillomavirus vaccination. The fourth would be to eat a balanced diet. And lastly, you must go for health check-ups once in a while.
Also Read: Eat Right, Eat Healthy