Cancer that develops in the mouth or the oral cavity is known as oral cancer. It is a part of the group of cancers that involve the head and the neck. It affects lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, tongue, and floor of the mouth. According to reports, over 450,000 new cases of oral cancer are reported each year. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that the US will see 54,000 diagnosed cases of oral cancer in 2021. In this blog, we will talk about some of the facts regarding oral cancer and its possible causes.
Some of the types of oral cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer that develops in the cells lining the mouth and the throat. It can affect the tongue, throat, and the voice box. Similarly, throat cancer is also known as oropharyngeal cancer since it develops in the oropharynx, which is the back of the throat behind the mouth. According to new studies, a link has been found between the human papillomavirus (HPV) — the virus linked to cervical cancer in — and oral cancer. It forms in the back of the throat and is hard to detect. In fact, half of tonsil cancers could be due to HPV.
Most early symptoms of oral cancer are often mistaken as other common health conditions and ignored. Some of them include:
- Persistent lip or mouth sores and pain,
- Lump or thickening in the mouth, throat or, on lips
- White or red patches on the gums, tonsil, tongue or mouth lining
- Lingering sore throat
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Bleeding or pain in the mouth
- A change or hoarseness in voice
- Swollen jaw and pain in teeth
- Earache that refuses to go
Most common causes
Excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco are the most common reasons behind oral cancer. And those who are high on both the habits — heavy drinkers and regular — smokers are more susceptible to it. However, other causes such as prolonged exposure to sun (without the use of sunscreen) and tanning have also been detected as risk factors.
Regularly visiting the dentist is the best way to ensure that your mouth is safe from any such health hazards. It is also the easiest method for early detection, and if the doctor suspects signs of oral cancer, one has to undergo the following tests for confirmation:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- PET scan
Not every unfamiliar symptom in the mouth is oral cancer. However, if you are diagnosed with it, it is advisable to start treatment as soon as possible.