Cancer of the mouth may also be known as oral cancer. It first shows up as a lesion in the mouth, but the carcinogenic cells may develop further and produce bigger clumps of cancerous cells. Oral cancer usually occurs on the tongue, but other areas tend to be the cheek lining, floor of the mouth, palate, gingiva and lips. It is estimated that this form of cancer has caused around 135,000 deaths in the United States alone. The survival rate for oral cancer is just over 60%.
The most common cause of oral cancer is linked to tobacco, whether chewing or smoking it. In countries like India where a lot of people are habituated to chewing tobacco, around 40% of cancer is related to the mouth. Other factors also contribute to oral cancer, such as poor oral hygiene, untreated lesions in the mouth and poor nutrition. There could be causes over and above that, so if there is any suspicion of oral cancer, approach a medical expert immediately.
Signs & Symptoms
The great thing about oral cancer is that it can be detected in the early stages. The main symptoms include lesions, lumps or ulcers in any area of the mouth, most commonly the tongue. Other parts of the mouth may be affected as well, as mentioned earlier. The discolored cancerous cells may appear to be either pale or a darkish pink color, different from the surrounding mouth regions. In the beginning, the infected area may appear to be painless, though in later stages, it is painful and may even burn if hot or spicy foods are consumed. One of the most common ways to determine if one is infected with oral cancer is to observe any lesion or ulcer that does not cure after 2 weeks.
A large number of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer will be cured, if it is in the early stages. However, still a large number of people lose their lives as a result of this form of cancer, not because it is incurable, but because their addiction is so strong that despite the diagnosis, they continue to consume tobacco until it is too late. Treatment for oral cancer first begins with surgery. The infected area is usually scooped out, as well as a small region around, to prevent the spreading of cancerous cells. If the cancer has spread to other regions in the mouth or parts of the body, then chemotherapy may be sought. Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of metal band Iron Maiden was in the news recently for being diagnosed with oral cancer, which he blamed on cunnilingus. For more on treatments for oral cancer, CLICK HERE.