Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in any part of the body. Oral Cancer is a type of cancer which develops in the tissues of the mouth and throat.
Oral cancer, like any other cancer, can be benign or malignant. Benign tumours are not usually cancer. They are rarely life threatening. They can be removed and don’t usually grow back.
However, malignant tumours are generally more serious. They can be life threatening since they invade surrounding tissue and recurrence rate is high.
Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body from the primary site. This is called metastasis. When this happens, the new tumour has the same kind of abnormal cells as the primary tumour. Oral cancers spread through the lymphatic system. Therefore cancer cells first appear in the nearby lymph nodes apart from the primary site.
Also Read: What you eat can help you fight cancer
People with certain risk factors are more likely to develop cancer. However this disease is not contagious.
- Tobacco – in many forms, is the major reason. Smoking cigarettes, beedies and cigars are all equally predisposing to oral cancer. In India tobacco is chewed in many forms; some chew them as wads, along with betel leaves and nuts, and with lime. Some keep a ball of tobacco tucked between cheek and gums for hours. Snuff has powdered tobacco. All these habits carry the risk of oral cancer. When coupled with excessive alcohol consumption, the risk is even higher.
- Excessive prolonged UV exposure.
- History of previous radiation therapy to head and neck
- Prolonged exposure to certain carcinogens like asbestos, sulfuric acid or formaldehyde.
- Having a long standing wound or chronic trauma from jagged teeth or ill-fitting denture.
- Exposure to certain viral infections – like Human Papilloma Virus.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Mouth ulcers that do not heal.
- Lump/ thickening of gums or lining of mouth
- Patches on oral cavity – red/ red and white
- Bleeding, pain and numbness in mouth
- Unexplained swelling in jaw
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
Early detection is the key here. It makes treatment easier and the prognosis better. The treatment will depend on the location, severity and the type of cancer. The individual’s overall health would also be taken into consideration.
Treatment Options for Oral Cancer:
- Surgery – to remove the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue around. It may involve removal of lymph nodes if affected. If necessary, patients may require reconstructive surgery to restore function and aesthetics.
- Radiation therapy – Oral cancers are sensitive to radiation. It involves the usage of beams of high energy X Rays or radiation particles to damage the cancer cells so that they don’t reproduce further.
- Chemotherapy – involves usage of powerful medicines which attack the cancer cells and destroy them in the process.
Also Read: Chemotherapy and its role in cancer treatment
These treatment modalities come with various side effects – fatigue, nausea and vomiting, weakened immunity system which makes the individual vulnerable to infections. They can sometimes damage surrounding healthy tissue along with the cancer cells. It is a double edged sword, in that sense.
Oral Cancer is a major public health issue in the Indian subcontinent, where it ranks among the top three types of cancer in the country.
Prevention Of Oral Cancer:
- Avoid any use of tobacco products – tobacco usage attributes to 80-90% of the incidence of oral cancer. People who stop smoking can also reduce their risk of cancer of lung, oesophagus and larynx along with oral cancer. There are many resources to help people quit smoking – like counselling groups or a smoking cessation program which can offer you with nicotine replacement therapy in the form of drugs or patches.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol
- If you spend a lot of time in the sun, using sunscreen, a lip balm or wearing a hat will protect your skin and lips from excessive exposure.
- If you think you are at a higher risk, speak to your dentist and health care individual about it. Regular check-ups are mandatory for individuals who possess a high risk and have also have a predisposing history.
Oral cancer is a dangerous disease, but you can see that it is mostly preventable. It is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and harmful habits which can be easily corrected.
Let us spread awareness and as responsible citizens, strive for a better tomorrow which is cancer free!
Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Karaikudi, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.
Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Karaikudi – 04565 244555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777