The statistics related to oral cancer paint a very unfortunate picture. In a study concluded by The Oral Cancer Foundation, it was revealed that on a rough estimate 50,000 people in the US alone will be diagnosed with this cancer in 2018, out of which 9000 will fail to survive. This estimation means that on average 1 person will die every hour from this illness. Moreover, Over half of the patients diagnosed with oral cancer will fail to survive within the next five years.
The above-mentioned data validates one crucial point relating to all sorts of cancer that may not be a sole feature of oral cancer alone. If the symptoms are diagnosed in the early stage, then only can one expect with a probability of recovering. On the contrary, most of the cancer-related deaths occur due to the failure on the behalf of the patient to accurately determine the signs when they first set in.
What is Oral Cancer & What Causes It?
Oral Cancer is categorized in the head and neck cancer and usually develops in the mouth or throat region. In some instances, there were reported cases of this illness initiating in the tongue and lips as well. Anyhow, dentists are considered to be the best judge of diagnosing it and it becomes imperative to pay frequent visits in order to be vigilant of any symptoms developing. Oral cancer will result when carcinogens cells start developing in the mentioned regions. These cancer-causing cells will start reproducing and will attack the related tissues resulting in a sored throat, swelling of the lymph node besides other consequences.
The people who are most prone to oral cancer are the ones who frequently smoke tobacco or use it in any other alternate form (chewing gum, pipe etc.). A research published by the University of South Carolina found that out of every 10 patients, 8 were chain smokers. The tar contained in the tobacco trigger the production of cancer-causing cells that continue to multiply and attack the mouth region. Government authorities have taken preventive measure to inhibit the habit of smoking by putting up images of the symptoms. One such image is shown below:
Other factors that can potentially increase the chances of being diagnosed with oral cancer include:
- Frequent usage of alco
- Inadequate diet
- A family history of oral cancer
- Weak Immune System
Detecting Oral Cancer
Medical scientists have identified numerous symptoms of oral cancer that are categorically divided into early and late stage symptoms. The former often go undetected and develops into the more severe form that eventually becomes fatal. It is pertinent to note the early signs of oral cancer and pay close attention to them so the illness can be treated before more complications set in. Following are some of the early signs:
Mouth Sores: Sores may develop in any region including cheeks, gums, lips and tongue. Rare cases have seen the development taking place in the oesophagus, the pipe that helps to transport food to the stomach. Patients who were able to early diagnose cancer had visible red patches, and ulcers forming in that particular region. The sore may initially not cause any pain but is known to last for a very long period of time with symptoms getting more visible with each passing day. Squamous cells which cover the surface of the mouth will first experience the breeding of the carcinogens that later spread out inwards into the gums.
Difficulty Swallowing: Medical Scientists have identified 50 types of muscles that guide a proper transportation of food once it enters the mouth until it reaches the stomach. When cancer-causing cells start to multiply in the mouth region, these muscles are highly vulnerable to their attack which in turn results in the disruption in the process through which food is swallowed. Oncologists classify this difficulty in swallowing as dysphagia. Dysphagia is identified by drooling while eating, bleeding, frequent coughing and severe heartburn post meal. Hence, patients will frequently decide to skip meals.
Parents should pay attention to kids who refuse to eat, have the liquid leak from their mouth while drinking and face breathing difficulty when ingesting since these signs can signify the early development of cancer.
Lose Teeth: Although children will lose teeth in the transitionary phase to puberty, in adults this should not be overlooked as it can be a matter of concern. Patients suffering from oral cancer reported impaired movement of the tooth with the slight bit of touch that usually intensifies during meal times. This loosening is often accompanied by bleeding and swelling of gums. With the first development of these symptoms, professional advice should be sought on an immediate basis as it can notify the presence of underlying cancer.
Ear Pain and Infection: The symptoms of oral cancer may not solely be oriented in the mouth region. Ears are particularly vulnerable to fluid accumulation and infections that would last for a considerable amount of time which then results in severe pain
Stages of Oral Cancer and Diagnosis:
Like many other forms of cancer, oral cancer has four stages. The first stage should be the time period when the symptoms should be first diagnosed and treatment should be sought Fourth Stage is the fatal one and symptoms may intensify to the extent where treating them would seem out of the equation. Oncologists classify four stages of oral cancer by the size of a tumour. In the first stage, it ranges from 2 to 4 cm which grows to 6 to 8 centimetres engulfing the lymph area.
The best way to diagnose any certain disease is to pay attention to its symptoms first. For identifying the signs of oral cancer, there are certain steps which can be thoroughly followed to have an idea about the outlook of the condition. The steps include a frequent examination of the mouth and neck region where a tumour can be known to exist.
In addition, certain tests can be carried out which give a more detailed explanation of the stage and the symptoms. A tissue biopsy will collect tissues from the mouth and check for the presence of carcinogens. PET scan will examine the lymph nodes and other organs while endoscopy will determine the cancerous cells in the nasal passages and sinuses.
Treating Oral Cancer
For patients who have been able to diagnose the symptoms of oral cancer in the early stages will be fortunate enough to stand with any chance of recovering. For other stages, when a tumour starts to grow beyond 4 centimetres, oncologists will carry out treatment processes which can improve the condition mildly if not in its entirety.
Patients with oral cancer will undergo chemotherapy which is a rigorous way of killing the cancerous cells through strong medications taken either orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy is often done along with a radiation therapy which exposes the patient to certain radiations that aim to destroy the tumour. The biggest drawback of the two ways of treating oral cancer is its side effects that reduce a person’s lifestyle to nill.