10 Important Oral Cancer Facts that You Must Know

Oral cancer, scientifically called oropharyngeal cancer occurs when any part of the oral cavity is attacked by deadly cancerous cells. This form of cancer can occur in the lining of the mouth, over and under the tongue, gums, back of throat, tonsils, lips, the roof of the mouth, and behind the wisdom teeth.

Almost 90% of oral cancers begin in the throat and lining of the mouth. Hence, they are termed as squamous cell carcinoma. There are various symptoms of oral cancer and just like other kinds of cancers, even there are some important facts associated with it.

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with oral cancer, you must read this post to better comprehend this cancer. Having knowledge about these facts can help you identify oral cancer at an early stage and early diagnosis is the only way to combat this life-threatening ailment.

1. Everyone is at risk of developing oral cancer. But if you are an individual above 40 years age then chances of experiencing this ailment are more. Moreover, individual with unhealthy oral practices are more prone to developing this cancer.

2. In most cases, oral cancer is diagnosed only when cancer has metastasized to other locations in the body, like lymph nodes. Prognosis at this stage is quite difficult as compared to curing the ailment in a localized region. Moreover, there are chances that cancer has already invaded deep into local body structures surrounding it.

3. It is one of the most dangerous kinds of cancers because patients are not able to notice it at its early stage. It is because oral cancer can prosper well without causing any pain or releasing any symptoms. Also, it has a high risk of forming primary tumors. Hence, patients who have successfully survived the first stage are at 20 times more risk of developing the cancer of the second stage.

4. People at a younger age, even those who have never consumed any tobacco products or haven’t smoked can get entrapped with this cancer. The main cause for this is HPV16 virus. This is human papilloma virus version 16 that can be sexually transmitted between individuals and is known to increase the incidence of oral cancers in young non-smoking patients. The HPV14 virus works in the same way as tobacco and hence can instigate oral cancer.

5. Excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption are lifestyle factors that can result in oral cancer. Additionally, physical factors like exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause cancer of lips, which is also a form of oral cancer. Another physical factor contributing to oral cancer is exposure to X-rays. Such exposures during dental examinations or body analysis are safe, but excessive exposure to them can result in neck, head, and oral cancer.

6. One of the major dangers of oral cancer is in its early stages, where it can go unnoticed. Oral cancer at its early stage is painless and results in very minute physical changes. However, if you plan dental checkups on a regular basis, then your dentist can diagnose it and hence the ailment can be cured before it becomes devastating.

7. Besides lips, which is no more a major location for the occurrence of this cancer, common areas for development of this cancer are in front or anterior of the mouth, including the floor of the mouth and tongue. People who consume tobacco may tend to develop it in the sulcus between cheek and lip and gingiva (soft tissue) that covers the lower jaw. Also, there are small numbers of cancers which can occur to the salivary glands. Now the more commonly found locations for oral cancer are base of tongue, tonsils, back of the mouth, pillars of tonsils, and tonsillar crypt.

8. Just like other types of cancers, even oral cancer is divided into stages on the basis of the TNM staging system.

  • Here T stands for tumor size.
  • N indicates the spread of the tumor to the lymph nodes.
  • M indicates the spread of a tumor or cancerous cells to other body parts.

A person has to take multiple tests and medical examinations in order to determine the stage of oral cancer. Some of these tests are MRI scan, CT scan, Endoscopy, X-ray, and PET scan.

9. The treatment for oral cancer is a multidisciplinary approach that involves the efforts of surgeons, chemotherapy oncologists, radiation oncologists, nutritionists, dental practitioners, and restorative and rehabilitation experts. Usually, chemotherapy is combined with radiation and surgical measures to cure the ailment. Most importantly, before the treatment process is started, a patient’s oral health is addressed. This is done to avoid developing complications in post-therapeutic treatments.

10. Whether a patient has surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or combined therapy, depends on the stage of cancer. For patients whose cancer is cured at an early stage may have little possibilities of post-treatment deformity. But patients whose cancer is diagnosed at a later stage have to undergo surgical removal of the ailment. Hence, they may need reconstruction and restorative measures for their oral cavity and facial features. In addition to this, such patients may also need adjunctive therapy to assist their speech, swallowing and chewing foods, and address issues related to lack of salivary functions.

Avoiding the known risk factors like alcohol consumption, smoking, and unhealthy oral practices can decrease your chances of developing oral cancer. But there are external factors also involved, which are beyond control. For example, age or entrance of the virus in our bodies, and more. While we cannot do anything to keep such risk factors at bay, but we can always maintain healthy oral hygiene and get timely dental checkups to keep a close eye on this cancer. Such measures can help diagnose oral cancer early, which increase the chances of its successful treatment and healthy survival of the patient.

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