Oral Cancer Awareness Month 2023
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to spreading awareness about the risks and early detection of oral cancer. Oral cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that affects the mouth and throat. According to the American Cancer Society, over 54,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021, and about 10,850 people will die from it. The main goal of Oral Cancer Awareness Month is to identify it in early stages. The good news is that oral cancer can be treated successfully if detected early. That is why it is essential to be aware of oral cancer's risk factors and symptoms.
The Oral Cavity, Small Area With Big Responsibility.
The oral cavity, or mouth, is a small area in the body that plays a big role in our overall health and well-being. It is the gateway to our digestive and respiratory systems and is essential for speech and communication. However, the health of our oral cavity is often overlooked, and many people need to recognize its important role in our overall health. The oral cavity is home to millions of bacteria, some of which are beneficial and some of which can be harmful. Poor oral hygiene can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. In addition, poor oral health causes various systemic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Prevalence Of Oral Cancer
According to the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), oral cancer is the most common cancer among men than women. Men are more than twice as likely as women to have these cancers. They affect White people slightly more frequently than Black people. Around 1 in 60 men and 1 in 141 women will acquire oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer in their lifetimes. It is estimated that India accounts for around 30% of all oral cancer cases worldwide. The prevalence of oral cancer in India is attributed to various factors, including tobacco use (both smoking and chewing), alcohol consumption, poor oral hygiene, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. These risk factors are particularly prevalent in certain regions of India, such as the northeastern states and parts of northern India. In terms of the prevalence of oral cancer in India in words, it is estimated that there are around 77,000 new cases of oral cancer each year in the country, with men being at higher risk than women. Unfortunately, oral cancer is often diagnosed late in India, resulting in poorer outcomes and a lower survival rate.
Symptoms Of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer develops in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, floor or roof of the mouth, or throat. Early detection of oral cancer is important for successful treatment, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Some common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Mouth sores or ulcers that do not heal.
- Persistent red or white patches.
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing.
- Persistent hoarseness or sore throat.
- Numbness or sensation of tingling in the mouth or lips.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Oral cancer is a complex disease with multiple causes, and often a combination of factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Some of the common causes are:
- Tobacco use.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Risk factors are characteristics or circumstances that increase the likelihood of negative outcomes. Let's delve into the risk factors for oral cancer.
- Age: Oral cancer is more common in people over 50.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
- Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of oral cancer.
- Sun exposure: Prolonged exposure to UV radiation of the sun increases the risk of lip cancer.
- Previous cancer treatment: People who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancer may have an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
Early Detection Can Save A Life
Diagnosing oral cancer typically involves a thorough medical and dental examination, imaging tests, and biopsies.
- Dental Examination - The first step is a physical examination, where a medical or dental professional will carefully examine the inside of the mouth, tongue, gums, and throat for any abnormalities, such as lumps, bumps, or discolorations.
- Biopsy - If any suspicious areas are found, the next step is to perform a biopsy, which involves taking a small tissue sample from the affected area. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine whether it is cancerous.
- Imaging Tests - These tests include X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, which may also be used to help diagnose oral cancer and determine the extent of cancer's spread.
It is also essential to be aware of the early signs of oral cancer, such as sores or ulcers that do not heal, red or white patches on the gums or tongue, and persistent pain or discomfort in the mouth or throat. Early detection is key to the successful treatment of oral cancer, and regular dental checkups can help ensure that any potential problems are caught early.
Staging Of Oral Cancer
The TNM staging system is widely used for describing the extent and spread of many types of cancers, including oral cancer. TNM stands for Tumour, Node, and Metastasis. These correspond to a different aspect of cancer's progression.
- A tumour (T) refers to the size and location of the primary tumour. In oral cancer, this includes the size and location of the tumour in the mouth, tongue, gums, or other parts of the oral cavity.
- Node (N) refers to the spread of cancer to nearby lymph nodes. In oral cancer, this includes the presence and location of any cancerous lymph nodes in the neck.
- Metastasis (M) refers to the spread of cancer to other body parts. Oral cancer includes cancerous cells spread in distant organs, including the lungs or liver.
Management Of Oral Cancer
The management of oral cancer depends on various factors. These factors include the size and location of the tumour, the stage of cancer, and the patient's overall health. Treatment options for oral cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination. Here are the main management options for oral cancer:
- Surgery: Surgery is often the primary treatment for early-stage oral cancers. Surgery aims to remove the tumour and any affected lymph nodes or other structures.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment that targets specific proteins or genes contributing to cancer growth. This may be combined with other treatments for advanced or recurrent oral cancer.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Preventing oral cancer involves a combination of lifestyle choices and regular dental checkups. The following are the preventive tips for oral cancer to help you reduce the risk:
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Protect your lips from sun exposure.
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Get vaccinated against HPV.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet.