Oral cancer or mouth cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that can happen anywhere in the mouth. From developing on the surface of the lips to the salivary glands, and tonsils, oral cancer can occur anywhere.
Early oral cancers commonly present as:
- A non-healing sore in the mouth, despite adequate medication.
- Loose tooth or bleeding gums
- Painful swallowing or persistent ear ache
- Recent onset difficulty or pain during mouth opening or protrusion of tongue.
- Visible neck swellings.
These symptoms are usually overlooked and present later as advanced cancers.
Like any other cancer, if not treated on time, oral cancer can also be life threatening.
Below are the factors that are known to increase the risk of the developing oral cancer.
- Gender: Oral cancer is more common in males than in females. Use of tobacco and alcohol is seen significantly higher in men, thus increasing the risk factor for males. However, the gender factor is gradually declining as more women are indulging in tobacco and alcohol intake.
- Age: Oral cancer can occur at any age; however, those falling under the age bracket of 31-40 with an excessive alcohol and tobacco use are at an increased risk.
- Ultraviolet light: Lip cancer is more common among individuals who primarily work outdoors as well as individuals who are exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period.
- Genetic syndromes: Certain inherited genetic mutations can lead to different syndromes in the body which increases the risk of oral cancer. These include:
- Fanconi anaemia: This is a blood condition, which is caused by inherited abnormalities in numerous genes. Difficulties can start at an early age and often lead to aplastic anaemia or leukaemia. The danger of oral cancer among individuals with Fanconi anaemia is approximately 500 times greater than the general population.
- Dyskeratosis congenita: It is a genetically linked syndrome which can also cause aplastic anaemia. It carries a higher risk of throat and mouth cancer developing at an early age.
- Tobacco use: The chances of developing oral cancer depends on the frequency as well as the duration of tobacco use. Smoking can cause cancer in the mouth or throat, and tobacco products are related to cancer in the inner surface of lips, cheeks, and gums. About 80% of oral cancers are related to tobacco use in one form or the other.
- Alcohol: Approximately 70% of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer drink alcohol on a regular basis. For individuals who drink and smoke heavily, the chances of oral cancer may be as high as 100% more than the risk for individuals who do not indulge in these activities.
- HPV: Cancers that are related to human papillomavirus (HPV) are usually found in the tonsils, at the back of the throat, and the base of the tongue.
- Some other risk factors like excessive exposure to radiation, prevalence of neck and head cancer.
Minimizing your risks
Cancers of the mouth are one of the most curable types. Sadly 3/4th of oral cancer patients present to oncologists in advanced stages. The most crucial thing one can do to prevent oral cancer is to never indulge in alcohol, smoking and chewing tobacco.
The risk can also be reduced by:
- Reducing the exposure to the sun and wearing a lip balm with a good SPF
- Eating a balanced diet consisting of fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Removing the dentures at night and keeping them clean
- Identifying and eliminating any cause of chronic or persisting irritation to mouth for eg. Sharp tooth, repeated cheek bites, or even keeping supari or tobacco squid at a position in mouth.
While it is impossible to fully cure oral cancer, following the above steps can help minimise the chances. Also, getting cancer treatment from one of the hospitals like Max Healthcare, which offers the best cancer treatment in Delhi, can ensure a speedy recovery. Visiting the dentist at regular intervals helps to guarantee that any symptoms of oral cancer are recognised as early as possible.