oral cancer

Prevention, Screening and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
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Oral cancer or Oropharyngeal cancer can occur in any part of the buccal cavity including lips, tongue, throat, palate or floor of the mouth. Recognizing early indications such as sores, patches, lumps or bumps can help in keeping oral cancer at bay. Tumor resection surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are utilized to treat mouth cancer.

What is Oral or Mouth Cancer?

Oral cancer is a malignancy that tends to develop in the tissues of the oral cavity. Mouth cancer is considered to be a part of the larger group of cancer known as Head and Neck cancer which basically originates in the squamous cells which form the lining of the moist surfaces of mouth, nose, and throat. Cancer can happen at any age but most prominently it is found in the people who are above 30 years and are specifically addicted to tobacco and alcohol.

How Does Oral Cancer Develop?

In daily struggles, people forget about the most important fact that the health should be the priority and oral health is equally important. There can be various reasons that can become a pulley in the development of Oral cancer, some of them are:

1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a kind of virus that gets transferred through the skin. People who are suffering from HPV may not get any sign or symptom but can definitely affect others. Infections that linger for long, generally develop in cancer. People who are sexually active have a very good chance of getting exposed to HPV but the virus can be shunned off by following a healthy lifestyle.

2. Addiction to Tobacco and Alcohol

People who are addicted to smoking and tobacco consumption double their chances of getting oral cancer. They tend to develop warts and cuts on the sides of their cheeks, tongue, and lining of their lips.

3. Poor Hygiene

Alcohol consumption, poor oral hygiene, poor eating habits are also on the list of factors that lead to mouth cancer.

4. Family History of Cancer

Genetic factors, if somebody has a family history of mouth cancer then they are more vulnerable to get cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer symptoms are quite common and are often ignored by people in most of the cases.

  • Swelling and thickening inside the mouth
  • Red and white patches on the lining of lips and tongue
  • Perpetual sores and lumps inside the mouth
  • Weak gums leading to loosening of teeth
  • Painful jaw and tongue rotation

 How to prevent oral cancer?

Long lasting malignant lesions eventually transform into cancer. Oral cancer can be prevented by a little awareness and getting indulged in healthy habits. Oral screening is the most important step that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Apart from that, there are few things that are needed to be kept in mind to prevent cancer:

  • Say no to tobacco. Consuming tobacco in any form can induce the high risk of mouth cancer
  • Limit or quit alcohol intake
  • Try and apply lip balm with SPF in it, to protect your lips from sun exposure
  • Eat a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables
  • HPV easily gets transferred thus, talk to your doctor for HPV vaccination
  • Keep body hydrated. Intake of liquid holds a substantial importance in keeping oral cancer away

Oral cancer screening

Oral screening is a procedure that is conducted by the doctors to diagnose if there are any chances of cancer or precancerous condition that might be developing in the tissues of the oral cavity. The objective of the screening is to detect the formation of cancer or lesions at the very initial stage where it can be removed easily. Oral cancer screening methods include:

Visual screening: It is the most common and feasible way that is practiced by the doctors as a physical examination under the blue fluorescent light. Self-examination of cancer is another method of oral screening.

Conduct an Oral cancer screening at home

By following below mentioned steps you can conduct a screening of oral cancer at home itself:

  • Wash your hands with a disinfectant before conducting the self-examination
  • Extend your tongue to the possible limits and look out for white and red patches along the sides and under the tongue
  • Insert two fingers inside the mouth and try to feel any lump or bumps in the oral cavity
  • Examine your throat for swelling or enlargement of the lymph node
  • Use a dental mirror and closely examine tonsils

Common Mouth Cancer Treatment

Surgery and radiotherapy are the most commonly used treatment after the diagnosis of early oral cancer. Either these treatments are used in single modality or in combination. The stage of treatment depends on the location of the tumor, the age of the patient, cosmetic preference of the patients and other factors. Apart from these two procedures, chemotherapy is also used in combination with drugs and radiotherapy.

1. Tumor resection Surgery

It is an undeterred fact that cancer rapidly spreads in the body thus, at the very initial stage before the malignancy has spread in the body, doctors resect the tumor or wart that has developed in the mouth.

Various methods are used in the process of tumor resection namely, Mohs micrographic surgery (removal of cancer from lips), Glossectomy (incision of the tongue), Mandibulectomy (jawbone), Maxillectomy (removal of a tumor from the hard palate), Laryngectomy ( removal of the larynx).

Side effects of cancer surgery

Surgeries are conducted to operate out tumor or part of the mouth or body where the tumor has developed, thus the part tends to become dysfunctional either for a short time or permanently.

2. Chemotherapy

Along with radiation therapy, chemotherapy is conducted to hamper the growth of cancerous cells developing exponentially inside the body. Chemotherapy is sometimes used in alteration of surgery as the primary treatment. Apart from that, the combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy is used to minimize the size of larger cancers before surgery.

Side effects of chemotherapy

  • Hair loss on the entire body
  • Nausea and vomiting tendency
  • Low appetite
  • Reduced blood count

3. Beam radiation therapy

It is a radiation process with advanced radiation technology that targets cancer cells and spares healthy tissue of the body. Radiation therapy or Radiotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer include high-energy x-rays to demolish Cancer cells or to slow down their growth rate. There are two procedures included in radiotherapy, external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation which is also termed as Brachytherapy. In internal radiation, radio actives are kept beside or near cancer affected region.

Side effects of Beam radiation therapy

  • Severe pain in the oral cavity
  • Hoarseness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced tongue sensation

Rehabilitation After Oral Cancer

People who are diagnosed with oral cancer and have undergone surgeries or therapy for the treatment of oral cancer require reconstruction aids in the form of therapies. Doctors provide assistance to their patients in order to acquaint them with the habit of using their mouth during the recovery.

Oral cancer begins with little carelessness that is needed to be taken care of. If there are any absurd changes that are happening in the oral cavity, doctor consultation is extremely important. Ignoring early signs can lead to higher and dangerous risks. Make sure proper preventive measures are taken with the doctor's assistance to acquire better results. Oral health is equally important and should be kept in priority as many diseases begin from the mouth. Oral cancer is a highly preventive type of cancer that can even be cured if caught early.


Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

About the Author

Hematologist Oncologist, Medical Oncologist
Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra is a Medical Oncologist at SIMS Hospital in Vadapalani, Chennai. Dr. Ranjan specializes in Bone Marrow Transplant treatment, Solid Tumor treatment, Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy, Chemotherapy of Haematological Malignancies and Haemato Oncology treatment. Dr. Ranjan has completed his MBBS from Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Sambalpur, Odisha in the year 1983 and MD in General Medicine from MKCG Medical College, Berhampur, Odisha in the year 1990. Further, he pursued DM in Oncology from Cancer Institute (WIA), Chennai in the year 1993. Dr. Ranjan has a membership in European Society of Medical Oncology and Indian Society of Medical and Paediatric Oncology. Later, he joined European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. He has an experience of more than two and a half decades in the field of cancer treatments. He is registered with Orissa Medical Council in 1985. Dr. Ranjan is currently practicing at SIMS Hospital, a multispeciality centre situated in Vedapalani, Chennai. Book a FREE appointment with Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra at Elacancer.com.
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