Oral Cancer: Causes, Detection, Treatment & Prevention
Like many other cancers, the cause of throat and mouth cancer is unknown. However, we know risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing cancer. All risk factors are age, gender, and lifestyle decisions such as smoking, drinking, and eating. For instance:
- People diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer have an average age of 62 years old. Still, about a quarter of mouth and throat cancer patients are younger than 55 years old.
- Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer than women.
- Smokers are more likely to develop oral cancer. The amount and frequency of smoking, including vaping, are among the variables.
- Alcohol consumption raises the risk of mouth cancer, similar to smoking. According to statistics, heavy drinkers make up seven out of 10 oral cancer cases. In addition, smoking partnered with drinking increases the risk of developing oral cancer by 100 times more than those who do not smoke or drink.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes cancer in the mouth and throat.
- A diet deficient in fruits and vegetables increases the risk of mouth cancer, according to numerous research studies.
- A weak immune system increases the likelihood of oral cancer. The immune system is the body's defense against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign bodies that can cause infections and diseases.
These Symptoms Could Indicate Oral Cancer
Possible indications of mouth and throat cancer include:
- Soreness in the mouth that does not go away
- Persistent mouth pain
- Thickening or swelling of the lips, gums, or other parts of the oral cavity, particularly the inside of the mouth
- Observable lumps or bumps or eroded or crust areas
- Red or white spots on the mouth's lining, tongue, gums, or tonsil
- A sore throat
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing, jaw and tongue movement
- Numbness of areas of the mouth, such as the tongue
- Swelling of the jaw
- Loose teeth
- Pain around the jaw or teeth
- Changes in the voice
- Lump in the neck
- Bad breath that does not go away
- Weight loss
How Is Oral Cancer Detected?
A routine dental examination can detect oral cancer. The dentist inspects the face, head, and neck for lumps and abnormal shapes.
Dentists can also look for anomalies using specialized dyes or lights.
If something is discovered, a biopsy may be recommended.
How Is Oral Cancer Treated?
Treatment options for oral cancer vary depending on where cancer has spread and how far it has spread. The following are the stages of oral cancer:
In this stage, cancer has not penetrated the deep layers of the tissue and is only visible on the surface. As a result, surgery can remove the affected tissue's top layers. Your chances of surviving are strong with treatment, but you will be monitored closely if cancer symptoms reappear.
Stage I And II
Surgery and radiation therapy is often recommended for stage 1 and 2 patients. After surgery, chemotherapy is done to ensure no cancer cells have been left behind.
Stages III, IV, And IVA
Treatment options in these stages often combine surgery and radiation. This is because cancer usually spreads to nearby lymph nodes and grows into nearby areas in these stages. Cetuximab and chemotherapy radiation are used to treat them. Surgery may also be done to remove any residual cancer.
Stages IVB And IVC
In these stages, the cancers have spread into nearby structures, and tissues with stage IVC cancers have spread to other body parts like the lungs. Chemotherapy, cetuximab, or a combination of the two are used to treat oral cancers in this stage. Radiation can also treat cancer symptoms and stop further issues from developing.
Recurrent Oral Cancer
Treatment options for cancer that has appeared again depend on cancer's location, size, and spread. The general health of the patient and any prior treatments are also taken into consideration.
According to cancer.net, oral cancer's survival rate depends on the location, how much it has spread, and the time between diagnosis and treatment, all affecting the likelihood of oral cancer survival.
- The five-year survival rate for people with oral cancer is 65%.
- With early cancer detection, 84% of patients survive five years.
- For people whose cancer has spread to surrounding organs or tissues or the regional lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is 64%.
- For people whose cancer has spread to distant body parts, the five-year survival rate is 39%.
Is Oral Cancer Preventable?
Mouth and oral cancer, like other types of cancer, has no proven prevention method. Nonetheless, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting cancer, such as:
- Quit smoking or chewing tobacco because it exposes your mouth cells to cancer-causing chemicals.
- Limit your alcohol consumption because it can irritate and weaken your immune system.
- Consume food that is high in vitamins and antioxidants.
- Wear chapstick with sunscreen to protect your lips from excessive sun exposure.
Visit the dentist regularly to detect any abnormalities as early as possible.