Mouth cancer is the cancer of the oral cavity which include the cancer of the lips, tongue, teeth, the inner lining of the mouth. Mouth cancers are one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide. The incidence of oral cancer is higher in men when compared to women.
The tumours of the mouth may be either benign tumour which may not be harmful or malignant tumour which are harmful and may invade in the surrounding tissues of the mouth. Generally, mouth cancers are not life-threatening.
The signs and symptoms associated with mouth cancer include:
- A sore: It may arise in the mouth which does not heal for a long period of time
- Lump formation: There might be lump formation or thickening in the mouth or the cheek
- Red or white patch: A patch formation of red or white colour may be visible on the gums, tongue, lips or the inner cavity of the mouth
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing of food
- Pain in the mouth and the jaw
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Mutations or certain changes in the DNA are known to cause cancer. However, chewing and smoking of tobacco and heavy consumption of alcohol have increased effects of cancer in the mouth, by damaging the DNA in the cell lining the mouth.
The risk factors associated with mouth cancer include
- Alcohol consumption
- Chewing and smoking tobacco
- Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco together
- Gender: Mouth cancer is twice common in men when compared to women
- Age: Mouth cancer develops over age, it is seen rarely in young people. Mouth cancer is mostly develops in patients who are above 55 years old.
- UV radiation: It is mostly visible in patients who work outdoors. It causes cancer of lips.
- Poor nutrition: Low consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased risk of developing mouth cancer because of poor nutrition levels.
- Physical examination: : It the preliminary test followed by any physician of the oral cavity. The physician examines the oral cavity for any bumps or dents, red or white patch formation, formation of sore, etc.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample of the affected area of the mouth is taken and is viewed under the microscope. In case of mouth cancer, biopsy test is sufficient to detect the presence of cancer in the mouth.
- X-ray scan: This x-ray of the mouth and the chest is taken to detect the presence of tumour. The mouth x-ray detects the presence of tumour in the mouth while the chest x-ray detects the spread of the infection to the lungs.
The treatment of oral cancers can be achieved by one of the following methods: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and palliative therapy.
The surgery for oral cancer involves the removal of a tumour from the mouth and the reconstruction of the oral cavity after the surgery. The various procedures involved in removal of tumour from the mouth cavity include:
- Tumour resection is the removal of the tumour and the surrounding tissues in the mouth to reduce the risk of tumour being left behind in the mouth.
- Mohs micrographic technique is the removal of the tumour from the lips in thin slices to prevent the loss of normal tissue.
- Glossectomy: It is the removal of the tumour from the tongue. The spread of tumour on the tongue determines the partial or complete removal of the tongue.
- Mandibulectomy is the removal of jaw bone.
- Maxillectomy: It is the removal of the tumour of the hard palate in the mouth.
Radiation therapy is the most convenient method followed in the treatment of small tumours. However, radiation therapy in combination of surgery or chemotherapy is followed in treatment of larger tumours of the mouth. It can also be used in treatment of symptoms of advanced stages of mouth cancer that include, bleeding, pain in the gums, difficulty in swallowing, etc.
It is the treatment of cancer using anti-cancer drugs which are administered either through oral route or through the veins. Chemotherapy is mostly combined with radiation therapy in early stages of cancer and in combination with surgery for complete removal of tumour from the mouth.
Coping and support
Mouth cancer causes more anguish to a person as the cancer is visible on the face. The patient should recognize the signs and symptoms which helps in treatment of cancer at an early stage. The patient should learn to cope with the effects of cancer.
Before the start of the treatment, the patient and the family should learn about the disease condition. The support of family and friends is most important for the recovery of the patient from cancer. A positive mood of the patient should be balanced during the entire course of treatment, which helps in maintaining mood fluctuations.