World Cancer Day: Oral cancers, also known as mouth cancers, are unfortunately common and often diagnosed at advanced stages, making treatment more challenging. The mouth can be affected in various ways, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, floor, and roof. As the cancer progresses, it may involve the jaws, the facial skin, or even spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Typically, most oral cancers are Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which originates from the lining inside the mouth.
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According to Dr. Shubham Jain, a surgical oncology expert from HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Delhi, the most common symptom of oral cancer is a non-healing ulcer or sore. It may or may not be painful and can appear as white or red. Another potential sign is the presence of a new lump in the neck that persists for several weeks. Additionally, if a tooth becomes loose, and despite extraction, does not heal, it could be a worrisome indication of mouth cancer.
Men face a higher risk of oral cancers compared to women, and this risk increases with age. Individuals who smoke, drink excessively, consume tobacco products, have a family history of cancer, or maintain a poor diet are also at risk. Dr. Jain emphasizes that the abuse of tobacco (in any form) and alcohol consumption are significant risk factors. And those who engage in all of these habits have an even greater chance of developing cancer. To safeguard against mouth cancers, quitting or abstaining from these habits is the best approach.
Fortunately, oral or mouth cancers can be effectively treated if detected early. Performing a monthly self-check once you turn 16, after cleaning your teeth, could potentially save your life by aiding in the early detection of mouth cancer. All it takes is two minutes, a mirror, and a good source of light. You can do it yourself or ask a friend to assist you. Follow these steps recommended by Dr. Jain:
Steps for an Oral Self-Check
Look inside your lips and feel the tissue surfaces around your lips and cheeks.
Examine your gums from the front. Then, use a small mirror to look at the tongue side through another mirror to view the inner gums.
Tilt your head back and examine the roof of your mouth. Use your forefinger to feel for any bumps or growths. Also, take note of any changes in color.
Take a gauze or tissue and gently pull your tongue out. Observe all surfaces, including the top, bottom, and sides, for any color changes or the presence of red or white lesions. Also, pay attention to any other abnormal changes or slow-healing wounds.
Thoroughly examine the neck and lower jaw area for any lumps on both sides.
Understanding Treatment for Oral Cancer
“Usually, oral cancer is initially treated with surgery,” states the expert. The extent and spread of cancer determine whether removal of affected parts of the mouth is necessary. In some cases, reconstructive surgery may be required to address cosmetic or functional deficits resulting from cancer. In advanced stages, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery, depending on the disease burden at the start of treatment.
In conclusion, being proactive about your oral health is crucial, especially when it comes to detecting potential oral cancers. By following the simple self-check steps outlined above, you can contribute to an early diagnosis and effective treatment. Remember, early detection can be a lifesaver. So, take a few minutes each month to perform a self-check and ensure your oral well-being.