ORAL CANCERS: SIGNS AND TREAMENTS

Cancer is one of the major threats to public health. A new analysis reveals that rates of mouth (oral) cancer has increased.

Oral cancers include cancer of the lips, tongue, mouth (gums and palate), tonsils and the middle part of the throat (oropharynx)

Jessica Kirby, Cancer Research UK's senior health information manager, said: "It's worrying that oral cancer has become more common. It's important to get to know your body and what's normal for you, to help stop the disease as early as possible.

An ulcer or sore in your mouth or tongue that won't go away, a lump on your lip or in your mouth, a red or red and white patch in your mouth or an unexplained lump in your neck are all things to look out for. Speak to your GP or dentist about any changes that are unusual or don't go away.
ORAL CANCERS
Source: webmd

Possible signs and symptoms


One of the real dangers of this cancer, is that in its early stages, it can go unnoticed. It can be painless, and little in the way of physical changes may be obvious. The good news is however, that your Physician or Dentist can, in many cases, see or feel the precursor tissue changes, or the actual cancer while it is still very small, or in its earliest stages. More about the stages of cancer It may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small indurated ulcer which looks like a common canker sore. Because there are so many benign tissue changes that occur normally in your mouth, and some things as simple as a bite on the inside of your cheek may mimic the look of a dangerous tissue change, it is important to have any sore or discolored area of your mouth, which does not heal within 14 days, looked at by a professional. Other symptoms include; a lump or mass which can be felt inside the mouth or neck, pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing, any wart like masses, hoarseness which lasts for a long time, or any numbness in the oral/facial region. Unilateral persistent ear ache can also be a warning sign.

Other than the lips which are not a major site for occurrence any longer, common areas for oral cancer to develop in the anterior (front) of the mouth are on the tongue and the floor of the mouth. Individuals that use chewing tobacco, are likely to have them develop in the sulcus between the lip or cheek and the soft tissue (gingiva) covering the lower jaw (mandible) where the plug of tobacco is held repeatedly. There are also a small number of cancers that are unique to the salivary glands, as well as the very dangerous melanoma. While the occurrence of these are dwarfed by the other oral cancers, they are a small percentage of the total incidence rate. In the US, cancers of the hard palate are uncommon, though not unknown. The base of the tongue at the back of the mouth, the oropharynx (the back of the throat) and on the pillars of the tonsils, and the tonsillar crypt and the tonsil itself, are other sites where it is now more commonly found, particularly in young non smoking individuals. If your dentist or doctor decides that an area is suspicious, the only way to know for sure if it is something dangerous, is to do a biopsy of the area. This is not painful, is inexpensive, and takes little time. It is important to have a firm diagnosis as early as possible. It is possible that your general dentist or medical doctor, may refer you to a specialist to have the biopsy performed. This is not cause for alarm, but a normal part of referring that happens between doctors of different specialties. More about biopsy and diagnosis

How oral cancer develops


We know that all cancers (neoplastic transformations) result from changes (mutations) in genes which control cell behaviors. Mutated genes may result in a cell which grows and proliferates at an uncontrolled rate, is unable to repair DNA damage within itself, or refuses to self destruct or die (apoptosis). It takes more than one mutation to turn a cell cancerous. Specific classes of genes must be mutated several times to result in a neoplastic cell, which then grows in an uncontrolled manner. When a cell does become mutated to this point, it is capable of passing on the mutations to all of its progeny when it divides. Genetic mistakes randomly happen each day in the course of our bodies replacing billions of cells. Besides these random occurrences, genetic errors can be inherited, be caused by viruses, or develop as a result of exposure to chemicals or radiation. Our bodies normally have mechanisms that destroy these abnormal cells. We are now discovering some of the reasons this fails to take place, and cancers occur.

More about the genetics of cancer
"Healthy lifestyles can help reduce the risk of developing the disease in the first place.
Not smoking,not drinking alcohol and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can all help to cut our risk of mouth cancer."

Treatment


After a definitive diagnosis has been made and the cancer has been staged, treatment may begin. Treatment of oral cancers is ideally a multidisciplinary approach involving the efforts of surgeons, radiation oncologists, chemotherapy oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists. The actual curative treatment modalities are usually chemotherapy with concurrent radiation, sometimes combined with surgery. Chemotherapy while able to kill cancer cells itself is currently not used as a monotherapy for oral cancers. Added to decrease the possibility of metastasis, to sensitize the malignant cells to radiation, to reduce the size of any malignancy prior to surgery, or for those patients who have confirmed distant metastasis of the disease, it is a powerful component of treatment.

More on the metastasis of cancer

Prior to the commencement of curative treatment, it is likely that other oral health needs will be addressed. The purpose is to decrease the likelihood of developing post therapeutic complications. Teeth with poor prognosis from periodontal problems, caries, etc. may be extracted. This avoidance of post radiotherapy surgery is important, as it can sometimes induce osteonecrosis, a condition which can develop when tissue damaged by radiation exposes the underlying bone and remains chronically non healing. Radiated bone, which has lost its ability to efficiently repair itself due to a now reduced blood supply, can create a chronic and difficult to treat situation. New extractions or other dental surgeries post treatment should be avoided when possible, and if necessary only be conducted by someone who is working in tandem with your cancer treatment team and conversant in the unique needs of radiated patients. A thorough prophylaxis, or cleaning will likely be done as well prior to beginning treatments.

Whether a patient has surgery, radiation and surgery, or radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, is dependent on the stage of development of the cancer. Each case is individual. More about radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Patients with cancers treated in their early stages, may have little in the way of post treatment disfigurement. For those whose cancer is caught at a later stage, the results of surgical removal of the disease may require reconstruction of portions of their oral cavity or facial features. There may be adjunctive therapy required to assist in speech, chewing and swallowing of foods, the problems associated with the lack of salivary function, as well as the fabrication of dental or facial prostheses.

Why Dental check up is important


Andrea Fearon, 47 from Newbury, was diagnosed in 2013 with mouth cancer after a routine checkup by her dentist.

Andrea said: "I had thought that most people with mouth cancer are heavy smokers over the age of 50, so I completely shocked when I was diagnosed with the disease. I'm proof that this type of cancer isn't limited to a particular age or sex. I thought seeing the dentist was about looking after your teeth -- but it can save your life. It's thanks to my dentist that the mouth cancer was caught early -- that's why I feel so lucky to be alive."

Source: oralcancerfoundation.org

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