Oral cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with over 2500 fresh cases registered in Australia every year. Oral or mouth cancer is a type of cancer that can occur in any part of the mouth, including the gums, lips, tongue or soft sides of the mouth. However, detecting oral cancer in its early stages increases the chances of survival. To raise awareness about oral cancer and help you stay healthy, this blog brings answers to some of the common questions people have about this complicated disease.
9 Most Common Questions About Oral Cancer
It is natural to have a lot of questions running through your mind if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with oral cancer. With this in mind, here are answers to the top nine commonly asked questions about oral cancer and treatment.
1. What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer also referred to as neck and head cancer, appears in different parts of the mouth: the tongue, gums, cheeks, lips, the roof of the mouth, or the floor of the mouth. If left untreated, oral cancer can spread to areas of the neck and head or other parts of the body, leading to difficulty chewing or swallowing, speech issues, moving the tongue or jaw and in extreme cases. Oral cancer can affect anyone, but the risk is higher in men. Oral cancer is a life-threatening type of cancer, but if caught and treated in the early stages, it is highly curable!
2. What Are Some Major Tooth Tumor Symptoms?
Tooth tumor symptoms can appear in different forms. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Chronic earache
- Red or white coloured patches on the tongue, gums or other parts of the mouth
- A sore in the mouth or lip area that does not heal
- Loose or painful teeth
- A visible change in the mouth tissues
- Pain with chewing or swallowing
- Swelling and bleeding in the mouth
- lumps on the neck and cheeks
- Weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
- Difficulty moving tongue or jaw
Experiencing any of these symptoms does not mean you have oral cancer, but it is worth checking with your family dentist.
3. What Are the Risk Factors?
The main risk factors for oral cancer are alcohol and tobacco consumption. Other risk factors include the following:
- Family history of mouth cancers
- Exposure to UV rays, from prolonged sun exposure
- Poor eating habits, with diets low in vegetables and fruits
- Poor oral hygiene
- Gum disease
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection
- Compromised immunity
4. Does Oral Cancer Run In the Family?
Yes, if one of your family members was diagnosed with oral or mouth cancer, then there are chances that you have inherited the genes responsible for developing oral cancer.
5. Is Oral Cancer Curable?
That might be the most common questions about oral cancer people ask about the mouth or oral cancer. And, the answer to this question is yes! Oral cancer is a highly curable disease if caught early. Early detection of this disease allows for timely treatment. It is also a good idea to have a regular dental check-up once every 6 months, so that any such development can be spotted in a timely manner.
6. How Can Oral Cancer be Prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent this disease, but there are several ways to lower your chances of getting it. Following the advice given below can increase your chances of preventing oral cancer.
- Incorporate a lot of healthy vegetables and fruits into your routine diet
- Always use a lip balm and sunscreen with SPF 30
- Avoid using tobacco in any form
- Don’t use things known to cause cancer
- Stop consuming alcohol
- Visit your dental professional for a regular screening
7. How is Oral or Mouth Cancer Diagnosed?
Many oral cancers are caught by dentists during routine dental check-ups. Other procedures designed to diagnose oral cancer include:
- Biopsy (removal of some piece of tissue for examination in a lab)
- PET or positron emission tomography scan
- CT scan
- MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan
- Complete medical history
8. How is Oral Cancer Treated?
Treatment for oral cancer mostly depends on several factors including the type, stage, size, and location of cancer, and how advanced cancer has become. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy may all be used for the treatment of oral or mouth cancer. In the earliest stage, oral cancer treatment may only involve surgery for the removal of the mass. For advanced oral cancer, multiple treatment options may be used separately or in combination.
9. Are There Any Side Effects of Oral Cancer Treatments?
Yes, an individual undergoing any type of oral cancer treatment will experience different side effects. However, the side effects differ depending on the treatment option you are having. Although some side effects of oral cancer treatment are temporary and under control, a few may be permanent.
Over to You
Whether you are just trying to stay well informed or have been diagnosed with oral cancer recently, it is critically important to stay on top of your oral health. We encourage you to discuss risk factors for oral or mouth cancer with your dentist and if appropriate, follow precautionary steps to stop smoking, or pursue an oral cancer screening for you or a family member.