Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, is a severe condition caused by the abnormal growth of cells affecting the lips, tongue, mouth, and throat. Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing oral cancer, but the most common causes include the following:
Sign and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The symptoms of oral cancer may vary depending on the location and stage of cancer. However, most prominent symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
It is important to note that other conditions, such as an infection or a dental issue, can also cause these symptoms. However, if you experience any of these symptoms, you must see a dentist or a doctor for an evaluation.
Diagnostic Procedures for Oral Cancer
Early detection and treatment are vital for improving survival rates and reducing the risk of complications. If a dentist or doctor suspects that you may have oral cancer, they will thoroughly examine your mouth and throat. The examination will include the following:
If cancer is found, doctors may do further tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to determine the stage of the tumor.
During a visual examination, the dentist or the doctor will look for any abnormalities in the mouth and throat, such as sores, lumps, or discoloration. They will also feel for any masses or lumps in the neck or jaw.
A biopsy is a procedure in which a small tissue sample is removed from the suspicious area and examined under a microscope. This is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of oral cancer. The biopsy procedure can be carried out in different ways:
Staging of oral cancer
Once an oral cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the next step is to determine the cancer stage. The most common staging system for oral cancer is the TNM system, which stands for Tumor, Node, and Metastasis. The severity of cancer will determine the treatment options and the prognosis.
Treatment and Prevention of Oral Cancer
The treatment for oral cancer will depend on the stage of cancer, the location, and the patient's overall health. The widely acceptable treatment options include:
Surgical Interventions for oral cancer - Surgery is the most prevailing treatment strategy for oral cancer. The cancerous tissue is removed, along with a margin of healthy tissue. Depending on the location and extent of the cancer, this may involve removing part of the jaw or the tongue. Surgery may be performed alone or in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment procedure that uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy is usually combined with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. The radiation is carefully targeted to the tumor, so it doesn't damage nearby healthy tissue.
Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy can be used alone or in conjugation with other treatments like surgery or radiation therapy. It utilizes specific drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can shrink tumors, prevent cancer cells from spreading, or kill cancer cells that have metastasized. It can also be used to reduce symptoms such as pain or fatigue. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally or given through an intravenous injection.
Recovering from Oral Cancer - After the treatment, the recovery time and side effects will vary depending on the type of treatment and the stage and location of the cancer. Some patients may be able to return to work and normal activities within a few weeks, while others may take several months to recover fully.
Side effects associated with the therapy - Radiation and chemotherapy is associated with several clinical adversities and may cause side effects, such as:
Tips to Prevent Oral Cancer - Several steps that can help reduce the risk of developing oral cancer are:
Eating a healthy diet abundant in fruits and
vegetables and low in processed foods and red meat can also help reduce the
risk of oral cancer.
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