Causes and Treatments for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer/mouth cancer is a type of cancer that affects any or all parts of the mouth. By definition, cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the body due to the alteration of the body’s DNA.
The DNA is the protein structure that acts as the body’s computer; it controls all the features and characteristics of each and every part of the body by determining the nature of the cells that will exist in those parts.
When the DNA is altered, the cells that are formed take on structures different from what they should be and they are therefore referred to as abnormal cells. Oral cancer, therefore, is the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in some part of the mouth or oral cavity.
Also Read: Tips to prevent oral diseases
Causes of Oral Cancer
The specific factors that cause the alteration of the DNA, as well as the actual mechanisms through which such alteration occurs, are not clearly understood. However, some risk factors have been directly linked to the development of mouth cancer. The most notable of these risk factors include the following:
According to research, the probability of developing oral cancer for a person who smokes 40 cigarettes a day is up to five times higher than it is for an individual who does not smoke at all.
People who drink a lot of alcohol are at greater risk of developing mouth cancer compared to those who do not drink completely.
To be specific, an individual who drinks and an average of 30 pints of beer every week stands a 20% higher chance of developing oral cancer compared to a teetotaler who does not drink any alcohol.
Exposure to Radiation During Other Treatments
There are much more risk factors for oral cancer, but the above are the most significant and the most widespread as well. Oral cancer is not easy to spot in its early stages and only and experienced professional would be able to identify its existence before the symptoms start to be visible.
As cancer progresses, more and more of the symptoms start to become visible. Oral cancer begins in a specific part of the mouth from where it spreads out after some time.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The most commonly affected areas are the tongue, the lips, the gums and the throat. Some of the early symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
- Swelling and bleeding of the gums
- Lumps and swelling of the tongue
- Lumps and swelling of the lips
- A sore throat that shows no sign of relieving
- Mouth ulcers that do not heal
The above symptoms are however not unique to oral cancer and may occur as a result of some other types of oral diseases. The only way to be sure that you have oral cancer is by consulting a qualified professional.
Usually, the dentist can diagnose most types of oral cancer. Even better, you should consult an oncologist. The oncologist may need to extract some tissue from the affected areas for proper cancer testing.
The tissue will also be used for the staging of cancer. Staging, in this context, simply refers to the determination of the extent to which cancer has advanced or developed.
Treatment of Oral Cancer
The treatment of oral cancer is similar in the most way to the conventional treatments that are used for other types of cancers. The most effective of these treatments include the following;
During surgery, all of the tissues in the affected area of the mouth are removed completely. In most cases, the tissues in the immediate surroundings of the affected areas are removed as well even if they may not be affected at all.
Because it involves the removal of tissue, this kind of surgery may have to be followed up by reconstructive surgical operations to maintain or improve your facial appearance.
In this treatment, the affected tissues are exposed to radiations such as powerful X-rays with the express objective of destroying the reproductive abilities of the cells within these tissues.
This involves the use of some powerful medication injected directly in the areas with the cancerous cells. The chemicals are supposed to kill the cancerous cells and destroy their ability to reproduce.
For the best results, these treatments are usually used in conjunction with each other as compliments. For instance, surgery is usually followed up with radiation therapy to prevent the recurrence of cancer.