Oral cancer signs, stages, and treatment
Although oral cancer is fairly rare, more than 54,000 people are diagnosed annually. However, this form of cancer has a high treatment success rate when detected and treated in its early stages. As a result, self-checks and routine dental checkups are key in prevention and early detection.
How does oral cancer develop?
Oral cancer involves the development of cancerous cells found in the throat and mouth. In addition, it can develop in places such as the tongue, gums, tonsils, and other parts of the mouth.
Learn more about this serious disease, including oral cancer signs and symptoms and treatment options.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
Symptoms of oral cancer can differ significantly from person to person, but generally include:
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- Lump in the cheek or neck swelling
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Sensation of something caught in the throat
- Unexplained weight loss (a common sign of cancer in general)
What are the stages of oral cancer?
Oral cancer is generally recognized to have four stages:
Cancer is present in the mouth, but it is still small during Stage I. However, it has not spread to other places in the body. When detected and treated at this stage, oral cancer has a very high chance of survival.
Treatment may involve the use of radiation, surgery, or a combination of the two.
Cancer has grown but has still not spread to other places of the body, like the lymph nodes. The survival rate is still very high.
The tumor has grown to larger than 4 cm, or about 2 inches, without lymph node involvement or further spread.
As far as treatment, surgery & radiation are both on the table, while chemotherapy may be recommended in some instances.
This stage is defined by the spread of cancer, rather than the size of the tumor. By this time, cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or another area of the body.
Patients with Stage IV oral cancer are typically advised to have surgery to remove the tumor. They may also undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or both.
Causes of Oral Cancer
The precise cause of an individual case of oral cancer is not always known. But there are some factors that are known to place you at a higher risk, including:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Exposure to radiation
- Using tobacco products
- Sun exposure (lips)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Preventing Oral Cancer
While anyone can develop oral cancer, most instances can be prevented by limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco products, and maintaining proper nutrition and exercise.
Since early signs of oral cancer are not always detectable by patients, it’s important to visit your dentist twice a year for routine dental care.
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– Dr. Houlik