Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not relent. This may occur on the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, or floor of the mouth, as well as the hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). It may or may not hurt.
Over 35,000 People In U.S.
Were Diagnosed in 2008
Men Face Twice The Risk As Women
Men Over Age 50 Face Greatest Risk
Mouth cancer occurs when cells on your lips or in your mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cancer cells to grow and divide when healthy cells would die. The accumulating mouth cancer cells can form a tumor. With time they may spread to other areas of the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.
Signs & Symptoms
- Ulcer or sore in your mouth or on your tongue
- Swellings, thickenings, lumps or bumps
- Rough spots, crusts, or eroded areas
- Red or white patch in your mouth
- Unexplained numbness or pain in your mouth or ear
- Loss of feeling in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
- Unexplained lump in your neck
- Sore or painful throat – chronic
- Hoarseness or croaky voice
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue
- Change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
- Dramatic weight loss
If you notice any of these symptoms and they last for more than three weeks, ask your doctor or your dentist to have a look at your mouth.
- Smoking – cigarette, cigar, or pipe
- Smokeless tobacco – dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco (50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of lips
- Alcohol – oral cancers are six times more common in drinkers
- Family history of cancer
- Excessive sun exposure – especially at young age
- An STD called human papillomavirus (HPV)
Over 25% of all oral cancers
occur in people who do not smoke
and only drink alcohol occasionally
Your dentist will feel for any lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. He or she will also thoroughly examine for any sores or discolored tissue.
The dentist may conduct an oral brush biopsy if anything appears suspicious. It’s a painless procedure that samples a small portion of the tissue for analysis.
A scalpel biopsy may be recommended if the tissue appears more suspicious. This typically requires local anesthesia.
Once oral cancer is detected, you will be referred to a doctor who will determine the stage of your cancer. You may require an endoscopy or a variety of imaging tests to determine if it has spread beyond your mouth.
If it’s spotted early, it’s easily treatable. The 1-year survival rate for patients of all stages of oral and pharynx cancers is 81 percent. The 5-year rate is 56 percent and 10-year survival rate is 41 percent.
Surgery to remove the tumor may be required, as well as cancerous lymph nodes to which it may have spread. You may also require reconstructive surgery to restore your appearance or help you regain ability to talk or eat. Dental implants may be required to replace natural teeth.
Patients with early-stage mouth cancers often only receive radiation therapy, using high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells. Radiation is also used post-surgery and sometimes combined with chemotherapy, which increases the effectiveness.
Chemo is a treatment using chemicals in the form of drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often combined with radiation.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Drugs treating oral cancers alter specific aspects of cancer cells to halt their growth. Cetuximab (Erubitux) treats head and neck cancers in certain situations. This may be used in conjunction with chemo and radiation.
- Don’t smoke
- Drink less alcohol
- Avoid smokeless or chewing tobacco. This might be in the form of paan or gutka, a mixture of ingredients that often includes tobacco, betel leaf, and areca nut
- Eat a healthy diet, including five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips. Apply a sunscreen lip product and wear hats
- See your dentist regularly and ask he or she to inspect your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes
If you’ve noticed any of the signs or symptoms listed above, contact Dr. Arhiri to schedule an exam at 610-647-7611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org