Oral cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, which includes the gums, the lips, the tongue’s surface, the cheek, the roof and floor of the mouth, the tonsils, and even the salivary glands. It is similar to a head and neck cancer and is often treated in a similar way.
Regular screenings should be done at the dental office with the additional use of a scope (Velscope), which has a special light that will show pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions as dark areas.
According to research, the following showed an increase of developing oral cancer:
- Smoking as well as chewing tobacco.
- Excessive intakes of alcohol consumption.
- Too much sun exposure to the lips including use of sunbeds.
- People with gastro esophageal reflux disease.
- Family history of cancer.
- Prior radiation treatment in the neck and head area.
- Occupational exposures like asbestos
In early stages there is no detectable symptoms that the patient can see. When signs and symptoms do emerge they can include some of the following:
- Mouth ulcers that do not clear up
- Red and or white patches inside your mouth, lips or your tongue.
- Swelling of the mouth that is present for over three weeks
- Pain when swallowing
- A sore in your mouth or lips that does not heal
- A lump or thickening of the lining or skin of the mouth
- Painful tongue
- Dentures no longer fit properly
However there are other conditions and diseases that have similar symptoms as above. You should see a doctor or a dentist to get correctly diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
The doctor or dentist will thoroughly check your whole mouth and throat for any lumps, white and or red patches or swelling. This includes checking the tongue, cheeks, lips, and the lymph nodes in your neck. If the exam shows signs of oral cancer, a biopsy is done (removal of a small sample of tissue), usually with a local anesthetic. If the biopsy shows that cancer is present, the doctor will assess the stage of the cancer with further tests. The stage is based on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread anywhere else. This enables the doctor to plan for the best treatment.
Treatment on oral cancer, depending on the location and stage of the cancer, may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or combined treatment.