Oral cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells called tumors that invade and damage the tissues surrounding it in or around the mouth. Oral cancer, like all other types of cancer, is life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated in the early stages. There are many types of oral cancer namely cancer in the voice box, spin of face & head, throat, sinuses, hard and soft palate, floor of the mouth, gums, cheeks, tongue and lips. Dentists and ENT are usually the first ones to notice and detect the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. This condition is also known as oral cavity cancer. The risk factors and symptoms of oral cancer are mentioned below.
The symptoms of oral cancer, especially in the first stages, seem non-threatening and similar to common oral problems. However, visiting the doctor is mandatory to rule out cancer as an option. If you suffer from one or more of the following symptoms, visit your dentist immediately.
1. Thickenings and swellings, lumps or bumps, crusts, eroded areas or rough spots on the lips, gums or surrounding regions inside or around the mouth.
2. Bleeding in the mouth that is unexplainable.
3. Persistent sores near and around the mouth or throat that bleed easily and may take more than two weeks to heal.
4. Unexplained numbness or pain and tenderness in the mouth, throat or face.
5. Development of patches which are usually speckled, red or white in the mouth.
6. Sudden weight loss.
7. Excruciating pain in your ear.
8. Loose teeth.
9. Difficulty in swallowing.
10. Lumps in your neck.
11. Stiffness or pain in your jaw.
12. Pain in your tongue.
13. Dentures that fit poorly.
14, Change of voice/loss of voice
Men above 50 years of age face the greatest risk of developing oral cancer. Women are at a much lower risk of developing oral cancer than men.
The following factors increase your risk of developing oral cancer-
1. Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes
2. Snuff dips or chewing tobacco - Sharp tooth/Jagged tooth
3. Consumption of alcohol and spices excessively
4. History of oral or other types of cancer in the family
5. Chronic sun exposure, especially facial exposure
6. Sexually transmitted virus such as HPV and other infections like EBV
7. Diagnosed with oral cancer previously