Oral cancer is a dental disorder where a cancerous tumor growth occurs in the mouth. This includes tumor growths that occur in the upper throat cavity. The cancer cells spread in the lips, mouth and throat. Without getting immediate and effective treatment for oral cancer, the disease can spread throughout the head, neck, spine and lungs. Oral cancer is used interchangeably with mouth cancer and it is considered curable when it is treated in its early stage. Although there is still no known cause for oral cancer, there are a number of predisposing risk factors that cause the development of the disease.
The material posted on this page on oral cancer is for learning purposes only. It is recommended that as soon as you suspect of having oral cancer, seek medical assistance immediately. The survival rate of localized oral cancer is about 83% with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and the combination of these methods when treatment is given at its earliest stage. To learn to recognize and manage other mouth, nose and facial injuries including managing broken teeth register for a first aid course.
Risk factors of Oral Cancer
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Heavy smoking combined with heavy alcohol drinking
- Too much sun exposure (particularly on the lips)
- Diet (those who consume lots of red and processed meat, fried foods)
- GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Human papillomavirus infection
- Radiation treatment
- Exposure to chemicals (e.g. asbestos, sulfuric acid and formaldehyde)
Warning signs of Oral Cancer
Early stages of oral cancer do not present any symptoms generally. It may go unnoticed and some symptoms may look like an ordinary ulcer or sore. Having a regular dental check-up is the best form of prevention because your dentist can perform an oral screening that will help diagnose any underlying disease in the oral cavity. The following are the warning signs of oral cancer that warrant the need for a medical check-up as soon as possible.
- White, red (or mixed) spots or patches on your tongue, gums, or any other parts of your mouth
- Mouth sore that bleeds and does not heal
- Bleeding in any part of the mouth
- Persistent pain or numbness anywhere in the mouth as well as in the lower lip or chin
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck
- Thick, rough, crusty spot in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your jaw
- Feeling of change in the way your teeth fit when you bite down
- Hoarseness of voice not related to cold or allergies
- Pain in the ear that does not go away
Should you experience the above mentioned symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as possible for a clinical examination and evaluation. If definitive diagnosis is not obtained, it is best to consult a specialist.
Mayo Clinic. Mouth Cancer. Retrieved June 18, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mouth-cancer/basics/definition/con-20026516