What exactly is Mouth Cancer?
Mouth cancer is a cancer that can develop in any part of the mouth, including the tongue, the gums, the palate (roof of the mouth), under the tongue, the skin lining the mouth or the lips.
Mouth cancer also called oral cancer. There are around 4,700 cases that are diagnosed each year. It is twice as common in men as it is in women and is rare in people under the age of 40. Many cases are diagnosed by dentists rather than doctors
Mouth cancer can affect any part of the mouth, including the tongue and lips. The most common symptoms are having a sore or ulcer for more than three weeks. You should see your dentist or doctor if you have any symptoms in your mouth that are unusual. The outlook for people with mouth cancer is very good if it is diagnosed early.
What causes mouth cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply out of control.
Some people develop mouth cancer for no apparent reason. However, certain risk factors increase the chance that mouth cancer may develop. These include:
[Tweet “#Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral #cancers.”]
- Mouth cancer is just one cancer which has a much higher incidence in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
- Chewing tobacco or the betal leaf.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase your risk of mouth cancer.
- There are some conditions affecting the mouth, such as leukoplakia and erythroplakia, which can increase the risk of a cancer developing.
Mouth cancer is not hereditary, so does not run in families.
What are the possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer?
- A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in the mouth, lip, or throat
- A white or red patch in the mouth
- A feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness in the tongue or other areas of the mouth
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- Pain in one ear without hearing loss
A person who has any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks should see a dentist or doctor for an oral cancer exam. Most often, symptoms like those listed above do not mean cancer. An infection or another problem can cause the same symptoms. But it’s important to have the symptoms checked out—because if it is cancer, it can be treated more successfully if it’s caught early.
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How is mouth cancer diagnosed and assessed?
To affirm the diagnosis. It is likely that you’ll need a biopsy. A biopsy is when a smaller sample associated with tissue is usually taken from a part of our bodies. This sample is usually and then checked within the microscope to consider irregular tissues. Results of any biopsy might take a couple weeks.
Examining the extent and distribute (staging)
If you are confirmed to have mouth cancer then further tests may be required. For example, biopsy samples may be taken from the nearby lymph glands by using a fine needle. This is to assess if any cancer cells have spread to the lymph glands.
Other tests may be arranged to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. For example, a CT scan, an MRI scan, or other tests.
This assessment is called staging of the cancer. The aim of staging is to find out:
- Whether the cancer has spread to local lymph nodes.
- Whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body
- How much the tumour has grown in the mouth.