Oral Cancer

It’s fair to assume that most of the human race is concerned about ways to cut their cancer risk. Cancer, a potentially deadly illness, appears to be random. Researchers and doctors who have extensively studied the many forms of cancers are unable to pinpoint why some people develop cancers, and others don’t. An abundance of information is available that chronicles different techniques to reducing the risk of developing cancer, and ways to detect cancer early when it is most treatable. When most people hear the word cancer, they may think of colon, breast, testicular, ovarian cancer, and so forth. These are the more common cancers that many are aware of. Cancer may affect any part of the body. This includes the nose, lips, eyes, and fingers. These sorts of cancers are rare, thus little information is available about them. Another cancer type that gains little attention, but causes nearly 8,000 deaths a year is oral cancer.

Facts about Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a serious form of cancer and has an alarmingly high death rate. There are approximately 30,000 new cases of oral cancer in the United States each year. Many who are diagnosed with this particular cancer are in an advanced stage. Sadly, a large percentage will not live pass five years of their diagnosis. The main reason why oral cancer goes undetected is because many adults are unfamiliar with this type of cancer and its symptoms. Cancer awareness has increased in the past decade, and millions of Americans have adopted regular annual examinations. Moreover, regularly monthly self-examinations result in many cancers (such as breast and testicular) being diagnosed in the beginning stages.

Oral cancer mainly affects males over the age of 40. However, females and young adults are not exempt. Oral cancer does occur in women. For every six guys, roughly one or two females will be diagnosed. Researchers are unable to pinpoint exactly why more men develop oral cancer. In addition, it appears that Caucasian males recover and beat the odds more than any other race or gender group.

Causes of Oral Cancer

The exact causes of oral cancer are unknown. However, there are certain factors that place a person at great risk. Age is a huge factor. Although oral cancer may occur at any age, most cases occur in individuals over the age of 40. Additionally, long-term tobacco use or exposure to second hand smoke is another risk factor. In fact, approximately 75% of all people diagnosed with oral cancer have used, or currently use tobacco products. Tobacco users who drink heavily double their odds of developing oral cancer.

Oral cancer includes cancer of the lips, tongue, and gums. Fortunately, cancer of the lips has decreased because of an increased awareness of the importance of protecting the skin and lips from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Many lips balms and glosses include sun block among their ingredients, which tremendously reduces the risk of developing cancer of the lip. Moreover, individuals who are diagnosed with HPV (human papilloma virus) may develop oral cancer. This sexually transmitted virus is known to also cause cervical cancer.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

There are several indicators of oral cancer. However, those unfamiliar with this form of cancer may not realize the severity of their condition, and ignore seeking medical treatment. Typical symptoms include:

Mouth sore(s)
Bleeding gums
Lump on cheek
Lump on tongue
White or red patches inside the mouth
Persistent sore throat
Jaw stiffness
Difficulty swallowing
Numbness inside mouth

Experiencing occasional mouth problems is common. In fact, a person without oral cancer may exhibit one or more of these symptoms simultaneously. Nonetheless, minor mouth infections such as canker sores and bleeding gums generally cease within a week. Those who show signs of these symptoms for more than two weeks should consult their physician or dentist.

Symptoms of oral cancer may be mild. Nonetheless, individuals who are in the high risk category should not delay medical treatment. Oral cancer can quickly spread to the neck, throat, and lymph nodes. Once this occurs, fully treating the cancer becomes more difficult. Late detection is the reason why oral cancer has a yearly death rate higher than cervical, breast, and testicular cancers.

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

Individuals who regularly visit their dentist have a higher chance of early detection. In most cases, dentist will notice abnormalities or changes in the tissue lining the mouth. If there are abnormalities, dentist will likely examine mouth for hard spots, and check for swollen throat or neck. Both are indicators of oral cancer. Dentists who suspect oral cancer will recommend a biopsy to confirm diagnosis.

During a biopsy, a tissue sample from inside the mouth is removed. The doctors will likely remove samples from the gums, lip, inside cheek, and tongue. This is necessary to determine which part of the mouth contains malignant cells. Additionally, the throat and neck may also be screened for cancer. If the cancer is advanced, the throat and neck may have cancerous cells. Before treatment can be effectively administered, doctors must be aware of the exact location of the cancer, and the severity.

Treatment of Oral Cancer

Once a diagnosis of oral cancer is confirmed, the patient may begin treatment. Treatment options for oral cancer are comparable to other forms of cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment. Surgeons will remove cancerous cells from the mouth and surrounding areas. This may also include remove lymph nodes in cases where the cancer has spread.

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells. In addition, chemotherapy is a drug intended to kill cancerous cells and prevent their growth. In the case of oral cancers, oncologist may recommend combination therapy for attacking the illness. Oral cancer has a high rate of recurrence. Thus, after a patient undergoes surgery to remove cancerous cells in the mouth, throat, or neck, they may also undergo several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both to ensure that all cancer cells are destroyed, and to prevent the growth of new malignant cells.

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