Cancer is the new-age disease. With most infections well under control, the changing lifestyles have brought in a new set of diseases - from obesity to heart disease to diabetes to stroke to cancer, the causes for concern have changed over time.
Oral cancer is a set of cancer that develops in the mouth and the throat. These include the gums, lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, palate, cheek, throat, larynx, hard and soft palate, and sinuses. These areas are covered by squamous tissue lining where the cancer develops.
If you are worried about oral cancers, you need to do two things. First is to be aware of the risk factors for oral cancer, and second is to be aware of the symptoms to look out for. If you have any of those risk factors, then be extra alert and watch out for symptoms. The challenge with oral cancer is while the gums and the tongue are easily identified by the patient, cancers of the throat and larynx can go undetected until they have spread to other organs. This leads to reduced chances of complete cure.
- Sex - Men are twice more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
- Age - People over 44 years of age are prone for cancer
- Family history
- Smokers: Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes increase your risk of developing cancer by almost 6 times compared to nonsmokers
- Smokeless tobacco - The use of dip and snuff is also associated with a higher incidence of cancer of the lips, throat, and gums
- Alcohol - Again, increases the risk by 6 times compared to non-alcohol users
- Excessive sun exposure: especially in your younger days puts you at a higher risk for oral cancer
- HPV - The human papilloma virus which is sexually transmitted also puts increases the risk of oral cancers.
Some of the symptoms to watch out for if you are worried about oral cancer are listed below:
- Chronic, nonhealing sore or an ulcer in any part of the mouth (gums, floor of the mouth, cheek, tongue, etc.)
- Patches on the mouth - red, white, or a combination
- Lumps or bumps in certain areas of the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Dentures turn ill-fitting, which were previously fitting well
- Constant ear pain that does not subside
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty moving the tongue or the lips
- Change in the voice - hoarseness
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Weight loss
- Numbness in a certain part of the mouth or the face
- Difficulty in speech
These symptoms should prompt an immediate dental visit, who can do further check to diagnose and treat oral cancer, if present.