While the exact cause of oral cancer remains unclear, this type of cancer occurs when there are changes in the DNA of cells in the mouth. Over the past few years, the number of oral cancer cases has been on the rise.
Some of the lifestyle factors associated with oral cancer include different types of tobacco – cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and pipes. Other risk factors are age, eating habits and alcohol.
Despite the serious nature of the disease, treatment is possible and can be efficient if it is detected early. This is why it is important to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
Oral cancer can affect different parts of the oral cavity, including the lips, throat, tongue, the mouth, pharynx, salivary glands, larynx, and sinuses. Since early detection can help in making treatment more effective, it is important to seek medical attention immediately you notice any of these signs and symptoms.
• A persistent sore in the mouth that will not heal
• A sore throat and hoarseness that will not go away
• Persistent bad breath
• Swelling that makes it uncomfortable to wear dentures
• Persistent pain in the mouth or on the lips
• A thickening or lump in the cheek
• Difficulty in chewing, swallowing or trouble in moving the jaw, tongue, and speaking
• A lump in the neck or the feeling of a stuck object in the throat
• Weight loss
• Unexplainable voice changes
• Numbness, pain or tenderness of the tongue or in other areas of the mouth
• Pain in one of the ears without causing any loss in hearing
• Loss of teeth without any apparent dental cause
When to see a doctor
It is common to mistake the early signs of oral cancer with other conditions. If the signs and symptoms are persistent and carry on for more than two weeks, it is advisable to seek professional medical attention. The doctor will examine you to establish any other causes of the signs and symptoms before taking any necessary interventions.
Screening and treatment
The importance of going for regular screening at your dentist’s cannot be denied. The process is painless, quick and will go a long way in helping to detect the cancer during the early stages, making it possible for the relevant interventions to be taken. During a routine checkup, your dentist will not only examine your gums and teeth but will also cover your lips and face for any signs that will indicate the development of oral cancer.
Other areas that the dentist is likely to check are the jaw area, the neck as well as the top and underside of the tongue. With the importance of the screenings, it is recommended that they are done at least once every six months. Once a biopsy returns positive diagnosis of oral cancer, treatment of the affected area may include surgical procedures, radiation as well as chemotherapy as interventions to treat the condition.
There are several ways through which you can reduce the risk of suffering from oral cancer. Stopping and avoiding habits such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol would be a great place to begin. Proper nutrition will also ensure that you have a strong immune system.