Oral cancer is a horrifying disease that can change your life within a blink, with almost 54,000 Americans receiving this daunting diagnosis each year. Symptoms are often overlooked, leading to late-stage diagnosis and a drastic decrease in survival rates.
This silent disease is placing a significant health burden on society. Despite these alarming facts, awareness about oral cancer symptoms and treatments remains low.
It’s vital to bring this issue to the frontline, highlighting signs to look for and understanding the treatment options to clarify this health condition and arm ourselves better in the fight against oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral Cancer, often referred to as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, is a critical type of cancer that begins when the cells in the mouth or the lip region undergo abnormal changes. This cancer can involve several areas such as the lips, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, gums, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue, and the hard palate at the front of the mouth.
It is usually a part of a category called head and neck cancers and is mostly related to squamous cells or flat cells that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue, and lips.
What Are the Main Signs of Mouth Cancer?
1. Persistent Oral Pain or Sores
One of the most common mouth cancer symptoms is persistent pain or sores in the mouth that do not heal within 14 days. Characteristically, these sores can appear on the lips, gums, or inside the mouth.
2. White or Red Patches in the Mouth
White, red, or mixed-colored patches inside the mouth or the lips could be a potential sign. These abnormal sores or discolored tissues should signal an appointment with a health care professional for examination.
3. Lumps, Rough Spots, or Swollen Areas
Any abnormal tissue growth, unexplained swelling, lumps, or rough spots in the mouth or on the lips and tongue could be symptoms of mouth cancer.
4. Dramatic Weight Loss and Difficulty in Swallowing or Speaking
Unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and a persistent sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in the throat may indicate mouth cancer.
5. Ear Pain and Change in Voice
Frequent ear pain without any loss of hearing and a noticeable change in voice tone are further signs of oral cancer.
What Are the Underlying Causes and Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
- Tobacco and Alcohol Consumption. Tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco products, account for most oral cancers. Heavy alcohol drinkers, especially those who also use tobacco, are at an increased risk.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Exposure. Some types of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, can cause oropharyngeal and mouth cancers.
- Poor Diet. A diet lacking fruits and vegetables can elevate the risk of mouth cancer. Maintaining a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables reduces cancer risks.
- Age. The risk of oral cancer increases with age, typically affecting individuals over the age of 40.
- Insufficient Dental Hygiene. Poor oral hygiene practices can contribute to the development of oral cancers. Regular dental check-ups are crucial for early detection.
How Is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?
Initial oral cancer detection typically involves a physical exam of the oral cavity. This could include visual examination of the mouth, lips, and throat, looking for abnormalities such as sores and discolored tissue. An extensive physical examination may involve checking the neck area for swollen lymph nodes or any abnormalities.
Additional Diagnostic Tests
A sample of tissue, or biopsy, may be taken from a suspicious area of the mouth or throat for laboratory testing. This would aid in the identification of cancerous cells, squamous cells, or cancer types such as squamous cell cancer. Specialists such as maxillofacial surgeons or neck surgeons often conduct these procedures.
To establish the exact stage and spread of the disease, medical professionals may navigate towards additional tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans. This helps them determine the extent to which the cancer has extended into nearby tissues or other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes or other organs.
What Are the Available Treatment Options for Oral Cancer?
Surgical intervention is a common oral cancer treatment, and it involves removing the tumor and possibly some healthy tissue around it. In some cases, the surgeon may also remove lymph nodes in the neck, particularly if the cancer has spread there.
2. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to obliterate cancer cells. Delivered with precision by a radiation oncologist, it focuses solely on specific areas, reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. This treatment could be a standalone in conjunction with surgery or in advanced mouth cancer cases where surgery is not an option.
Chemotherapy employs the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It’s often used in combination with surgery. It’s also beneficial in advanced stages or when the cancer has a high probability of recurrence.
4. Targeted Drug Treatments
Targeted drug treatments involve the use of drugs to attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells. They are usually used in concert with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for comprehensive cancer treatment.
5. Mouth Cancer Treatment Without Surgery
In certain instances, a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy might be an adequate alternative to surgery. This could be instrumental in maintaining quality of life, as surgical procedures can, at times, have profound effects on the day-to-day activities of patients.
Take Action Against Oral Cancer With DNA Dental Today
Don’t wait for the signs of oral cancer to manifest. Active surveillance can be life-saving. At DNA Dental in Dallas, we prioritize your oral health. Our well-trained team uses advanced technology for oral cancer screening during your regular dental checkup. We provide a comfortable setting and the compassionate care you deserve.
Join us today in the proactive fight against oral cancer and guarantee a healthy, vibrant smile. Your journey to optimal oral health begins here at DNA Dental.