The earlier oral cancer is detected and treated, the better chances of recovery. The early detection of oral cancer increases the chances of recovery up to 80% but in most cases, the oral cancer is not diagnosed until it reaches a later stage and has metastasized to other parts of the body.
One of the main reasons for the delay in the diagnosis of oral cancer is that oral cancer can appear in many different forms which initially seem harmless such as white or red spots in the mouth, sores, non-healing wounds, mouth bleeding, loose teeth with no reason, painful chewing or swallowing, and other symptoms that are often ignored or mistreated for too long. The biggest problem, oral cancer cause no pain especially in the early stages which makes the early detection of oral cancer difficult.
Causes of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is caused by a genetic mutation that is triggered by some factors such as smoking. The risk of oral cancer increases significantly with chronic tobacco and alcohol use, especially when combined. Other risk factors include:
- Prolonged sunlight exposure.
- Human papillomavirus.
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables.
- Genetic predisposition.
Early Detection of Oral Cancer at Home
For the early detection of oral cancer, you should pay attention to warning signs and symptoms in your mouth. Visit your doctor or dentist if you notice any changes in the color, hardening, or thickening of the oral mucosa. But don’t worry, not every change is oral cancer. Often, there is a completely harmless reason such as irritation due to a dental prosthesis. Possible symptoms of oral cancer include:
- White or red patches on the oral mucosa.
- Teeth mobility for no reason.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or eating.
- Jaw pain.
- Non-healing wounds.
- Increased bleeding tendencies.
Changes in the oral mucosa that don’t cause any discomfort are dangerous because oral cancer causes no pain in the early stages. Therefore, any lesion that doesn’t clear within 2 weeks should be examined by the doctor or the dentist especially when it causes no pain
Early Detection of Oral Cancer at The Dental Office
Regular visits to the dentist are the ideal way for the early detection of oral cancer. The dentist will examine your oral mucosa, teeth, gums, and the tongue. If he/she discovers unusual changes, he/she will perform a biopsy, a tissue sample is taken under local anesthesia and then examined in the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. If oral cancer is confirmed in the biopsy, the doctor will perform other tests to determine the stage of cancer such as endoscopy and imaging tests (x-rays and computerized tomography). The early detection of oral cancer is important because the earlier a cancer is detected and treated, the better chances of recovery.
Treatment of Oral Cancer
The treatment depends on the stage of oral cancer. In early stages, when no metastases are present, the tumor is surgically removed usually in combination with radiotherapy. The early detection of oral cancer is very important because the surgical removal of large tumors can cause changes in the appearance of the face. Also, it may cause difficulty eating, drinking, swallowing, and speaking. In advanced stages, oral cancer often spreads to lymph nodes. In such cases, the treatment may involve the surgical removal of lymph nodes and related tissues in combination with chemotherapy. The earlier oral cancer is detected and treated, the better chances of recovery.