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Mouth Cancer Early Signs to Treatment: Everything You Should Know

Mouth Cancer Early Signs to Treatment: Everything You Should Know

Mouth cancer refers to any tumor found in the oral cavity. It is a malignant neoplasia that can appear on the lip or the oral cavity. Mouth cancer can develop in various places in the mouth. It can affect the buccal mucosa (inner lining of the cheek), the floor of the mouth, the hard palate, salivary glands, the tongue, and the gingiva (gums). It is usually regarded as a squamous cell carcinoma because about 90% of mouth cancers are histologically related to squamous cells.

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates indicate that there will be about 54,000 new cases of oral cancer in the United States in 2022 and it is estimated to cause about 11,230 deaths.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

A persistent cold or toothache could be an early sign of mouth cancer but is usually neglected or foreseen as a minor issue. However, if the problems persist for several weeks or months, it is advisable to consult a doctor soon. Some of the symptoms of oral cancer include the following. See a doctor immediately if you notice any of these.

  • A persistent and non-healing mouth ulcer
  • Uneasy mouth pain
  • A lump
  • Persistent pain in the jaw joints
  • Numbness in the tongue and other parts of the mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • White or red patches appear on the gums, tongue, tonsils, and mouth lining.
  • Voice changes.
  • A sore throat that does not fade away.
  • Difficulty in swallowing and chewing.

If these symptoms persist for several weeks or appear suddenly, your doctor may prescribe tests to check for oral cancer. The best way to diagnose oral cancer is to get it checked as early as possible.

See Also: What Are the Different Types of Oncologists?

One of the leading causes of global morbidity and mortality is oral cancer. It accounts for over 90% of all oral malignancies. Oral cancer usually affects people over 40 years old, and their risk increases with age. However, men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women. Racially, African-Americans are more prone to the throat and oral cancer than white people. It is because of the influence of environmental factors, though the exact cause of this disease is unknown. 

Patients who smoke cigarettes or drink a lot of alcohol are prone to developing mouth cancer. Individuals with constant exposure to the sun are also at an increased risk of contracting lip cancer.

Early Stages and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancers do not present with visual symptoms or signs while in the pre-malignant or localized stage and are usually painless. However, it can trigger a patient's self-referral when the symptoms begin to develop. The most common sites of mouth cancer are the tongue, the mouth floor, the retromolar trigone, and the buccal mucosa. Early diagnosis of these conditions can lead to the most effective treatment.

Two critical signs when it comes to the development of mouth cancer are induration and fixation. Most oral cancers will manifest in different ways. These include a red patch, an endophytic ulcer, a more exophytic mass, or a more exophytic mass with rolled margins. Oral carcinoma's most common warning signs include a lump or ulcer, loose teeth, pain or numbness, dysphagia, and weight loss.

Other features include:

  • a non-healing extraction socket.
  • fixation of tissues to the overlying mucosal surface.
  •  lymph node.

Causes of Mouth Cancer

The few critical causes of mouth cancer include:

1. Smoking and Alcohol

Heavy alcohol consumption and tobacco use increase the risk of developing oral cancer. The degradation of harmful chemicals in alcohol converts them into active substances that can harm humans.

2. Family History of Cancer

Long-term exposure to certain risk factors can affect the development of this disease. In addition, a family history of oral cancer also increases the risk of developing this disease. Mouth cancer can occur in non-smokers and non-alcoholic individuals.

3. HPV Infection

The presence of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection can lead to the development of oropharyngeal cancer.

4. Uv Rays

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is a risk factor for developing lip cancer. People with Plummer-Vinson syndrome are also at increased risk of developing oral cancer.

5. Presence of Other Immune Deficiency Diseases

Immunosuppressed individuals are at increased risk for developing various malignancies, such as oral cavity cancer. Individuals infected with HIV also commonly develop Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma.

Types of Mouth Cancer

The several types of oral malignancies that appear as persistent non-healing oral ulcers are 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears painless, indurated, and non-healing ulcer with a high and poorly defined margin. Most of the time, the lesions that develop in this type of cancer have a long history of the indurated border or rolled lesions. The oral cavity's primary tumor sites are the buccal mucosa, gingiva, lower alveolus, and tongue.
  • Salivary Gland Tumour appears in the cheek, palate, and gingival region. Adenoid cystic and mucoepidermoid carcinomas are outcomes of salivary gland tumors.
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (lymphomas) can also cause chronic ulcers in the palatal region of the jaw. These ulcers are due to the accumulation of necrotic slough in the paranasal sinus and palate tumors.
  • Buccal Mucosa Tumour The unhealing cancerous ulcers that lead to carcinomas in the oral cavity.

Treatment and Prevention of Mouth Cancer

The treatment of oral cancer requires a multidisciplinary approach involving various medical, dental, and speech/swallowing specialists. The primary tumor stage helps determine the treatment of the disease. The TNM (Tumor size, Lymph Node involvement, and Metastasis to distant areas) staging method considers the degree to which cancer has spread and the size of the lymph node involvement.

The most common treatment method includes

1. Radiation Therapy & Surgery

Stage 1 or 2 cancer treatment includes either radiation therapy or surgery. Surgery is the most common treatment, as it removes the entire tumor. Radiation therapy is performed if the cancer is not resected. It is effective for small localized tumors.

2. Chemotherapy

Induction chemotherapy treatment involves the use of various drugs to shrink a tumor. Some of these include docetaxel, paclitaxel, cisplatin, and fluorouracil. The advantage of induction chemotherapy is that it can reach stage 3 cancer's metastatic cells. It is because the effects of surgery and radiation are limited to localized areas.

3. Glossectomy

Stage 4 cancer can spread to any lymph node. It can also blow out to other parts of the body. Depending on the size and location of the lesions, surgeons perform glossectomy and mandibulectomy.

Surgical techniques have improved significantly, making it easier for patients with metastatic disease to undergo reconstruction. In addition, chemotherapy and palliative radiation therapy can treat the condition.

See Also: What Are the Top 10 Deadliest Cancers?

Preventive Measures for Mouth Cancer

Cancer is a common disease that can be asymptomatic in the initial stages. Though mouth cancer is common in chronic tobacco users and alcoholics, there are certain cases where individuals with no habit of drinking and smoking also get the disease. Specific preventive measures help control the lethal disease.

  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
  • Regular dental visits and check-ups for malicious ulcers at a cancer treatment center near you.
  • Limit exposure to UV rays and other harmful radiation.
  • Maintaining good oral health.
  • Effective aftercare for those who have undergone cancer surgery.

Eliminate Cancer Cells from Your Body with Far North Surgery!

Our highly competent General Surgeons at Far North Surgery can guide you with hassle-free diagnosis and treatment if you doubt any symptoms or require clarity on unexplained body conditions. You can schedule an appointment or contact us to get all your questions answered. 

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