Mouth cancer or oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in any parts that make up the mouth. Mouth cancer can occur on the gum, lips, tongue, inner linning of the cheeks, floor and roof of the mouth.
Mouth cancer, also called oral cavity cancer is classified under head and neck cancers and are mostly administered same treatment.
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:
- A sore that bleeds
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A growth, lump or thickening of the lining of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Poorly fitting dentures
- Tongue pain
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Difficult or painful chewing
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Sore throat
Causes of Mouth Cancer
When cells on your lips or in your mouth develop changes in their DNA, These mutations give room to cells to keep on growing and dividing when healthy cells would die, forming cancer cells. The accumulating abnormal mouth cancer cells can later form a tumor. With time they may spread inside the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.
Mouth cancers most commonly begin in the flat, thin cells (squamous cells) that line your lips and the inside of your mouth. Most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
It’s not clear what causes the mutations in squamous cells that lead to mouth cancer. But doctors have identified factors that may increase the risk of mouth cancer.
Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:
- Excessive drinking of alcohol
- Tobacco use
- Excessive sun exposure to your lips
- A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
- A weakened immune system
When to see a doctor
See a dentist if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that bother you and last more than two weeks. Your doctor may first investigate other more common causes for your symptoms as an infection.
How Is Oral Cancer Treated?
Oral cancer is treated with surgery to remove the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
READ ALSO: What Your Tongue Says About Your Health
There’s no proven way to prevent mouth cancer. However, you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer if you:
- Stop using tobacco or don’t start.If you use tobacco, stop. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Using tobacco exposes the cells in your mouth to harmful chemicals that causes cancer.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.Chronic or excessive alcohol intake can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.
- Eat fruits and vegetables.Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of mouth cancer.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips.Protect the skin on your lips from the sun by staying in the shade when possible. Wear a broad-brimmed hat that effectively shades your entire face, including your mouth. Apply a sunscreen lip product.
- See your dentist regularly. Your dentist inspects your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may early indicate precancerous changes.