What should I know about Oral Cancer?

The sound of “cancer” brings fear in our minds. Did you know that mouth cancer is the 8 th common cancer worldwide?

 If this information is scary then the good news is that mouth cancer can be cured completely when detected early. And the relief is that, the cause of mouth cancer is known. So lets’ find out more about Oral Cancer……….

What is Oral Cancer?

Any unwanted, harmful and extra growth in our body is a cancer or cancerous growth. This growth in the mouth affects any soft tissue or bone in that area. But the good news about mouth cancer is that the growth spreads regionally. Which means that the other areas of the body are not affected. Mouthcancer is the most easily diagnosable cancer. 

What are the causes of oral cancer?

Tobacco is one of the main culprits causing oral cancer. Tobacco used in the smokeless form of quid along with betel leaves, arecanut and lime constitutes majorly for cancer in women in India. Tobacco used in the form of smoke in beedis, cigarettes and cigars cause cancer mostly in males.

Gutka chewers or pan masala chewers are prone to a premalignant condition called as Submucous fibrosis. This is a condition that leads to cancer.

What does oral cancer look like in the mouth?

Look for the following signs and symptoms in your mouth especially if you are a smoker or pan masala chewer.

  • Non healing ulcer in the mouth.
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth.
  • Difficulty in stretching the tongue.
  • Bleeding gums, mobility of teeth.
  • Lump in the neck.
  • White patches in the mouth, Cauliflower like growth.

What are difficulties faced by a person suffering from oral cancer?

  • One cannot eat properly
  • Foul smell from the mouth
  • Inability to open the mouth completely
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Mobility of the teeth
  • Poor social acceptance

Can my dentist help me detect oral cancer? How can the cancer be treated?

Dentists can easily detect any changes in the oral cavity and hence oral cancer.

Confirmation of the disease is done by smear or biopsy.

There are 4 stages in the disease. In stage III and IV the cancer has already spread to neck lymph nodes

and to the muscles and bone. Chances of complete curing is minimal. Cure is measured in the terms of

survival. Disease free interval for 5years is more than one can expect.

Stage – I and stage II oral cancer can be completely cured by surgery or radiotherapy.

Stage III and stage IV is treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy with minimal success.

How can I prevent the disease ?

Primary prevention

is prevention of the initial development of cancer or its precursor.

The first of the strategies for preventing cancer is to remove the causative agent.

Tobacco consumption is very rampant among the rural population especially among females. In males

smoking is more common. De-addiction centres have to be opened up in large scales to help people De-

addict from tobacco. In addition warnings on tobacco products about the harmful effects is also


Secondary prevention

means early detection and prompt treatment. The methods employed in

secondary prevention are

  • Propagate the importance of self examination of oral cavity.
  • Examination of the oral cavity by a Dentist or Physician.
  • Mass screening in areas where patient does not have access to a specialist.

By and large Oral Cancer should be included as a major eradication programme as the cause is known

and can be completely cured if detected early.

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