Oral (Mouth) Cancer
Introduction to Oral (Mouth) Cancer
Oral cancer is an abnormal, potentially malignant growth on any of the soft tissues of your mouth and throat.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is an abnormal, potentially malignant growth on any of the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. It can occur in the gums, tongue, roof or floor of the mouth, cheek, and perhaps less visibly in the tonsils and salivary glands.
The most common type of oral cancer is a squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer of the cells lining the tissues of your mouth and are exposed to the outside world. Other forms of cancer, albeit less common, include oral malignant melanoma and adenocarcinomas. These are cancers of the skin’s pigment cells and mucous and salivary glands of the mouth respectively.
What are the causes for Oral Cancer?
There are a number of factors that could increase your likelihood of developing oral cancer. Many such as smoking, other forms of tobacco, alcohol and radiation predispose you towards cancer in general. Other factors such as poor dental hygiene, a history of gum disease or human papilloma virus (HPV) or a poor diet can also contribute.
Alternatively a growth in the mouth may be caused by a metastasis (spreading) of a cancer originating from another part of your body, and will be treated accordingly dependent on its classification.
What are the symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The cancer may present with a range of symptoms and there is no defined list. Most commonly they come with discoloured pale or red patches, a lump which is usually felt and is the immediate cause for concern and ulcers, which can potentially increase the likelihood of cancer in a variety of tissues if present.
The range of other potential symptoms includes constant pain and inflammation, swollen bodies on your jaw and down your neck, difficulty speaking, eating and moving the muscles of your jaw and perhaps weight loss because of these difficulties. Additionally the cancer may cause bleeding which is noticeable upon brushing your teeth: Blood in your saliva is a major symptom for a variety of conditions besides cancer including gum disease and infection and it is recommended you seek medical attention for this even if it doesn’t present alongside the other symptoms of oral cancer just described.
How is Oral cancer treated?
The exact therapy received for oral cancer will be personal and dependent on your lifestyle and priorities: A combination of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy is a standard course of action. Additionally more novel techniques such as photodynamic therapy can be used for very early stage cancers. This technique involves sensitising cancer cells to certain wavelengths of light, making them absorb energy readily. With the application of this light the cancer cells are selectively targeted and killed while leaving healthy cells unharmed.