ORAL MOUTH CANCER SURGERY
Oral cancer is a cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Most develop in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips. Oral cancers are most often discovered after they have spread to the lymph nodes of the neck. Early detection is key to surviving oral cancer.
Types of oral cancers
Oral cancers include cancers of the:
- floor of the mouth
- hard and soft palate
Your dentist is often the first healthcare provider to notice signs of oral cancer.
Risk factors for developing oral cancer
One of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer is tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as chewing tobacco.
People who consume large amounts of alcohol and tobacco are at an even greater risk, especially when both products are used on a regular basis.
Other risk factors include:
- HPV infection (a sexually transmitted virus)
- chronic facial sun exposure
- a previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- a family history of oral or other types of cancer
- being male
What are symptoms of oral cancer?
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
- a sore on your lip or mouth that won’t heal
- a mass or growth anywhere in your mouth
- bleeding from the mouth
- loose teeth
- pain or difficulty with swallowing
- trouble wearing dentures
- lump in neck
- earache that won’t go away
- dramatic weight loss
- lower lip, face, neck, or chin numbness
- white, red and white, or red patches in mouth or lips
If you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t go away or you have more than one at a time, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
First, your doctor or dentist will perform a physical exam. This includes closely examining the roof and floor of your mouth, the back of your throat, tongue, and cheeks, and the lymph nodes in your neck. If your doctor cannot determine why you’re having your symptoms, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
If your doctor finds any tumors, growths, or suspicious lesions, they will perform a brush biopsy or a tissue biopsy. A brush biopsy is a painless test that collects cells from the tumor by brushing them onto a slide. A tissue biopsy involves removing a piece of the tissue so it can be examined under a microscope for cancerous cells.
In addition, your doctor may perform one or more of the following tests:
- X-rays to see if cancer cells have spread to the jaw, chest, or lungs
- CT scan to reveal any tumors in your mouth, throat, neck, lungs, or elsewhere in your body
- PET scan to determine if the cancer has traveled to lymph nodes or other organs
- MRI scan to show a more accurate image of the head and neck, and determine the extent or stage of the cancer
- endoscopy to examine the nasal passages, sinuses, inner throat, windpipe, and trachea
What are the stages of oral cancer?
There are four stages of oral cancer. Stages 1 and 2 usually involve a small tumor. In these stages, cancer cells have not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stages 3 and 4 are considered advanced stages of cancer. In these stages, tumors are large and the cancer cells have usually spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
The survival rate after one year for all stages of oral cancer is 81 percent. After five years, the survival rate is 56 percent, and after 10 years it’s 41 percent. The earlier the stage at diagnosis, the higher the chance of survival after treatment. This makes timely diagnosis and treatment all the more important.