Oral cancer is the leading cause for cancer related deaths annually globally and particularly in India. Oral cancer develops when cancer cells begin growing out of control in the mouth, which includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth (jaw), the gums, tongue, the floor of the mouth and palate.Most patients are diagnosed in late stage due to lack of awareness, limited resources and expertise.
Tobacco and tobacco products are mainly responsible for development of oral cancer. Other factors like alcohol, chronic infection, poor oral hygiene, chronic trauma, nutritional deficiency, genetic and immunological predisposition.
A mouth sore that won’t heal
Mouth pain that won’t go away
A lump or thickening in the cheek
A white or red patch on the gums, tongueor lining of the mouth
Difficulty swallowing or chewing
Painless lossof teeth
The oral biopsy is an important first step procedure in diagnosis and management of oral cancer. It’s a myth that cancer spreads after biopsy. It’s a small office based procedure under local anaesthesia. It does not lead to spread of cancer.
Oral cancer may be treated with one therapy or a combination of therapies, depending on where the cancer started and whether the disease has advanced. Surgery is often used to treat oral cancer that hasn’t spread. Surgery also is commonly used to treat advanced-stage and recurrent cancers, often in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted therapy.
For early cancers, there are no significant post treatment changes or challenges as they are mainly managed by surgery only. For advanced cancers, surgery involves removal of major structures like lip, tongue and jaw with or without skin and needs reconstruction. Post surgery radiation with or without chemotherapy is needed. The disturbed anatomy may affect speech, swallowing and facial contour.
Cancer recurrence is always a possibility. That’s why regular follow-up visits are recommended, so your doctor can monitor you closely after treatment ends, especially in the first two years, when the risk of recurrence is highest. Oral cancer patients are also at risk for developing a secondary cancer, which may develop during cancer treatment or after treatment ends. Because smoking and alcohol use increases the risk for secondary cancers, while also reducing the effects of certain treatments, oral cancer patients are advised to avoid tobacco and alcohol products altogether.