Oral cancer or mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, refers to a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the oral cavity. Oral cancer is a subset of head and neck cancer, and it can affect any of these areas.
The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which originates from the thin, flat cells lining the oral cavity. Like other forms of cancer, oral cancer occurs when there is uncontrolled growth and division of cells, leading to the formation of a tumor. This tumor can invade nearby tissues and, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream.
Where Can it Occur Generally?
Oral cancer can occur in various areas within the oral cavity, which includes the mouth and its associated structures;
- Cheeks (Buccal Mucosa)
- Hard Palate
- On the area beneath the tongue
Types of Oral Cancer
Squamous Cell Carcinoma:The most common type of oral cancer, originates from the squamous cells that line the oral cavity. It can occur in various areas of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat.
Verrucous Carcinoma:This is a subtype of squamous cell carcinoma that tends to grow slowly and has a warty appearance. It often occurs in the oral cavity, particularly in the buccal mucosa (cheeks) and the gingiva (gums).
Adenosquamous Carcinoma:This is a less common type of oral cancer that exhibits features of both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Lymphomas:Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system. While less common, lymphomas can affect the oral cavity and nearby structures.
Melanoma:Melanoma can develop in the oral cavity, particularly on the lips and mucosal surfaces.
Each type of cancer can have varying degrees of aggressiveness and response to treatment. It’s important to note that early detection and timely treatment play a crucial role in improving the outcomes for individuals.
Early Signs of Oral Cancer
- Mouth sores
- Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or other parts of the oral cavity
- Swelling, lumps, or thickening of the lips, gums, or other areas within the mouth
- Pain, discomfort and numbness in the mouth or tongue
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Changes in voice
- Sore throat
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding gums
- Loose Teeth
Causes of Oral Cancer
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor diet
- Family history of Cancer
Remember, regular dental check-ups are crucial for early detection and timely treatment if any abnormalities are found.
Treatment Options Available for Oral Cancer
Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue:Surgery can involve removing the tumor itself along with surrounding healthy tissue, and it may also involve the removal of lymph nodes in the neck if they are affected.
Radiation Therapy:It is often used as the primary treatment in combination with chemotherapy for small tumors or in combination with surgery to treat larger tumors.
Chemotherapy:It is often used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy, especially for more advanced cases. Chemotherapy may also be used if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Targeted Therapy:Targeted therapies are drugs that specifically target certain molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth.
Immunotherapy:Immunotherapy aims to boost the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. It can be used in certain cases of advanced or recurrent oral cancer.
Reconstructive Surgery:After the removal of cancerous tissue, reconstructive surgery might be performed to restore the appearance and function of the affected area.
The main goal of these treatments is to remove or destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue and preserving function and appearance as much as possible.
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