Oral cancer is a severe disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a type of cancer that develops in the mouth or throat and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. The causes of it are numerous, but one of the most significant risk factors is poor oral health. In this article, we will provide things you need to know about oral cancer.
All about Oral cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 54,000 people are diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in the United States per year.
Oral cancer is most common in people over the age of 55, more likely men, but it can affect people of all ages including younger people. The incidence of oral cancer in younger people has been on the rise in recent years, possibly due to an increase in the prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
Although it accounts for only a small percentage of all cancer diagnoses, it is important to note that the incidence of oral cancer has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, the number of cases has increased by 15% over the past decade, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
What is Oral cancer/ Mouth cancer? An overview of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, refers to cancer that develops in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and roof or floor of the mouth. It can also occur in the back of the throat, in the tonsils or salivary glands, and in the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat behind the mouth.
It typically develops when abnormal cells in the mouth grow uncontrollably and form a tumor. The tumor can then invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream.
Mouth cancer can cause a variety of symptoms that can be easily overlooked or mistaken for other Dental Problems. These symptoms may include:
- Mouth sores that do not heal or that bleed easily
- Persistent pain or discomfort in the mouth or throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck
- A sore throat that does not go away
- Hoarseness or changes in voice
- Unexplained weight loss
- A persistent cough
These symptoms can be caused by a variety of conditions, including infections, injuries, and dental problems. However, if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is important to see a dentist or doctor for an evaluation.
What causes Oral Cancer?
The exact cause is not fully understood, but there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing this type of cancer. The most common risk factors include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and poor oral hygiene.
Tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco, is the leading cause of oral cancer. This is because tobacco contains harmful chemicals that can damage the cells in the mouth and throat and increase the risk of developing cancer.
Heavy alcohol consumption can also increase oral cancer risk, especially when combined with tobacco use. Alcohol can irritate the cells in the mouth and throat and make them more susceptible to cancerous changes.
Poor oral hygiene, including not brushing and flossing regularly, can also increase the risk of developing mouth cancer. This is because bacteria in the mouth can cause inflammation and damage to the cells in the mouth, which can increase the risk of cancerous changes.
Other factors that may increase the oral cancer risk include exposure to certain chemicals and substances, a weakened immune system, and infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
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The diagnosis of oral cancer typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and tissue biopsy. The goal of diagnosis is to determine the extent and severity of the cancer and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
During a physical examination, a dentist or doctor will examine the mouth, tongue, and throat for any signs of cancer, such as red or white patches, sores, or lumps. They may also examine the neck for swollen lymph nodes, which can indicate that the cancer has spread.
Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans, may also be used to determine the location and size of the cancer and to see if it has spread to other parts of the body.
A tissue biopsy is often necessary to confirm a diagnosis of oral cancer. During a biopsy, a small sample of tissue is removed from the suspected area of the mouth or throat and examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells.
If it is diagnosed, further tests may be done to determine the stage of the cancer and to develop an appropriate treatment plan. These may include additional imaging tests, blood tests, or other diagnostic procedures.
The treatment of oral cancer typically depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches.
Surgery is often the first-line treatment for oral cancer, particularly if the cancer is small and localized. During surgery, the cancerous tissue is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue to ensure that all cancer cells are removed.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and may be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is often used to treat larger or more advanced cancers or to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and may be used alone or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is often used to treat advanced or metastatic mouth cancer or to shrink tumors before surgery or radiation therapy.
In addition to these standard treatment options, newer treatments such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy are also being used. These treatments work by targeting specific molecules or proteins in cancer cells or by boosting the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
Regular dental health checkup can help early diagnosis of Oral Cancer
Regular dental health checkups are an essential part of maintaining good oral health and can also play a critical role in the early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer. During a routine dental exam, your dentist will carefully examine your mouth, teeth, gums, and tongue for any signs of oral cancer or other dental problems.
Early detection is key to successfully treating oral cancer, as it increases the chances of successful treatment and improves the overall prognosis. Unfortunately, it often goes undetected until it has progressed to a more advanced stage, which can make it more difficult to treat.
By attending regular dental checkups, your dentist can identify any suspicious changes or abnormalities in your mouth or oral tissues and recommend further testing or referral to a specialist if necessary.
Studies reveal that Oral health problems can cause more Oral Cancer risks
Oral health problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and poor oral hygiene have been linked to an increased risk of developing oral cancer. Studies have revealed that the presence of certain oral bacteria can also contribute to the development of cancer. Inflammation caused by oral infections, as well as the production of harmful substances such as nitrosamines, can also increase the oral cancer risk.
One study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that individuals with gum disease had a higher risk of developing oral cancer compared to those without gum disease. The study also found that those with a history of tooth loss were more likely to develop the cancer.
Poor oral hygiene has also been linked to an increased oral cancer risk. People who do not brush their teeth regularly or who do not floss have a higher risk of developing oral cancer than those who practice good oral hygiene habits.
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