American Cancer Society estimates that 49,670 people will get oral cavity or oropheryngeal cancer in 2017, of which 9,700 are likely to die. Oral cancer is grouped with head and neck cancers and of all the cancer types, oral cancer makes up nearly 85% of all cases.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer, like any other cancer, is the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissues in the oral cavity, or anywhere inside the mouth to neck area, starting from mouth and nose, to throat, larynx, sinuses, and salivary glands. That’s why it is grouped along with the head and neck cancers.
About 80-90% of head and neck cancers is caused by the use of tobacco and/or alcohol. Other risk factors include betel quids, smokeless tobaccos, certain types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which are linked with oropharyngeal cancer in white men and women, radiation exposure by sunlight, certain workplace exposure, and Epstein-Barr virus that shows its manifestations in head and neck area.
Who Are Prone to its Attack?
As cancers develop more because of the unhealthy lifestyles, wrong eating and drinking habits, and excessive radiation exposures, they are more associated with persons of older age (around 60-62) as it takes time to develop it. However, they can occur in young people too depending on the level of exposure to different carcinogenic substances. They rarely occur in children but around one-fourth of all cases are found in persons below the age of 55.
Oral cancers are twice more common in men than in women, with men over the age of 50 the most prone. Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer found in men. Also, the overall new cases of this disease have been stable in men while dropping slightly in women.
10 Early Signs to Never Ignore:
It generally goes unnoticed in its early stages as oral cancer tends to be painless with slight physical changes, and people don’t get serious about it until they feel real discomfort. Most of the times, it gets unnoticed because of the ignorance by the side of the person carrying it.
Check out below the 10 early signs of oral cancer that you should never ignore:
- You may develop swellings or lumps in your neck or somewhere inside the mouth which is caused by the enlarged lymph nodes. A painful and burning red lump usually means an infection if they come and go, but if they develop and gets only bigger then it’s more likely a sign of cancer.
- If you get ulcer (the broken area of skin) and it doesn’t heal even after treatment, then it is a sign of cancer. About 80% of all mouth cancer patients share this symptom.
- An abnormal looking white patches (leukoplakia) or/and red patches (erythroplakia) may develop inside the mouth. A fungal infection, called thrush, leads to the development of these patches. If these go away with an anti-fungal treatment, then you don’t have cancer. Left untreated, they may lead to cancer.
- Unexplained blood flow or bruising may occur such as blood and bruises from or on the gums or tongue, etc., pinpoint-sized red dots on tongue, under tongue, on roof of mouth, and/or on inside of cheeks, and blood oozing from mouth.
- You will feel numbness. There will be no feeling, pain or tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or/and neck. Regular pain caused by swelling, lumps, crust, bleeding or bruising stops the brain from alerting to any feeling of sensation in the affected area. This numbness can also cause a person to develop inexplicable emotions.
- Obstinate spots or sores on mouth, face, and neck that bleed easily and do not heal easily within 14 days.
- You can feel that something is caught in the back of the throat that’s blocking you from speaking, swallowing, or moving the jaws and the tongue. This can also cause you severe pain.
- You may get speech problems as cancer that develops in mouth or throat can affect your voice. You may sound quieter, husky, or sound if you have a cold all the time. You might slur some of your words, or have trouble with pronouncing some sounds.
- Weight loss is one of the most common symptoms in mouth cancer. That’s because it gets painful to eat and swallow with oral and oropharyngeal cancer which causes weight loss. Extreme weight loss without proper dieting is a sign of advanced cancer.
- A change in the way your teeth and denture fits together.
If you notice any of these symptoms with you, contact your dentist immediately.
Here’s how you can prevent yourself from developing oral cancer:
- Brush and floss your teeth regularly as an unhealthy mouth reduces your immune system reducing your body’s ability to fight off potential cancers.
- Don’t smoke or use any type of tobacco product as they increase the risk of having oral cancer by six times.
- Stop consuming alcohol or at least drink them in moderation. More than 2 or 3 drinks per day highly increases the risk of developing cancer.
- Always use UV-A/B-blocking sun protection before going out in the sun. Your lips are very sensitive to the radiations of the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip.
- Eating lots of beans, berries, cabbage and broccoli, and dark green leafy vegetables can reduce the risks of developing cancer. Garlic, grapes, green tea, soy and tomatoes are also great help.
- Replace frying and grilling with baking, boiling, or steaming. Use healthy spices like garlic, ginger, and curry powder for added flavor.
- Exercise regularly as nothing can be a better help than an active lifestyle in warding off the risk of many diseases.
Keeping a good oral hygiene is the ultimate cure for any type of oral and dental health issues, including the life threatening ones like the oral and oropharyngeal cancer.
If you find any of the above mentioned oral cancer symptoms occurring to you, contact your dentist immediately to fend off the risk of having one.