Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. Although relatively rare, oral cancer is the third most common cancer among Malaysian Indian community in Malaysian Ministry of Health Hospitals. Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and is highly associated with the practice of tobacco smoking, betel quid chewing and excessive alcohol consumption.
More recently however, for reasons that are still unclear, oral cancer is increasingly being diagnosed in individuals who do not practice these risk habits. Although oral cancer can be fairly easily detected, death rates are higher than for many other cancer types mainly because it is often presented late.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Most develop in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips. Oral cancers are most often discovered after they have spread to the lymph nodes of the neck. Early detection is key to surviving oral cancer.
Types of oral cancers.
Oral cancers include cancers of the:
- floor of the mouth
- hard and soft palate
Risk factors for developing oral cancer
One of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer is tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as chewing tobacco.
People who consume large amounts of alcohol and tobacco are at an even greater risk, especially when both products are used on a regular basis.
Other risk factors include:
- HPV infection (a sexually transmitted virus)
- chronic facial sun exposure
- a previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- a family history of oral or other types of cancer
- being male
What are symptoms of oral cancer?
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
- a sore on your lip or mouth that won’t heal
- a mass or growth anywhere in your mouth
- bleeding from the mouth
- loose teeth
- pain or difficulty with swallowing
- trouble wearing dentures
- lump in neck
- earache that won’t go away
- dramatic weight loss
- lower lip, face, neck, or chin numbness
- white, red and white, or red patches in mouth or lips
If you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t go away or you have more than one at a time, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.