What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in a person’s mouth, which may affect speech and chewing food. Cancer of the mouth can be on the oral cavity, tongue, palate, or floor of the mouth.
If not treated in time, these clumps of uncontrolled cells in the mouth could cause severe symptoms and may even spread (metastasize) to other connected organs like the head, neck, nasal tract, stomach, intestine and all over the body.
Depending on their severity and location, various multidisciplinary treatments that best suit your conditions are recommended.
What causes mouth cancer?
Recent advancements in screening techniques and research have helped us understand the causes and progression of mouth cancer. In most cases, mouth cancer is caused by one or a combination of the following factors:
- Excessive tobacco and alcohol: Most of the mouth cancer is due to the excessive smoking of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and consumption of alcohol.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: The second major reason for mouth cancer is caused by human papillomavirus infection (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is due to oral sex. Depending on their strain (type), some of it can cause abnormal growth of cells that can develop into cancer.
- Genetic factors: Although the exact mechanism is not known, genetic factors also may play a role in causing mouth cancer.
- Immunosuppression: Individuals who are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system may pose an increased risk of developing mouth cancer.
- Metastasis: Cancer spreads from other parts of the body.
- Other factors: These include diet, lifestyle, age, environmental factors, smoking, alcohol consumption, over exposure to the sun or long-term use of certain medications.
What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
Early-stage mouth cancer rarely causes any symptoms. In most cases, symptoms may occur as cancer becomes invasive. Some common symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- Abnormal bleeding in the mouth
- Irritation, soreness, patch formation, numbness in the mouth
- Lump formation/thickening of the skin
- Excessive pain while chewing, speaking, or swallowing
- Discomfort during chewing and jaw movement
How is mouth cancer managed or treated?
Treatment for mouth cancer usually depends on the patient’s overall health condition and severity of disease conditions, such as the age, gender, type of cancer cell (tumor), area affected, and stage of the tumor.
Some common treatment options include:
- Surgery is often considered a final option only after all other treatment approaches have been tried without success.
- Mouth cancer Treatment surgery aims to remove the many cancer cells in the mouth to prevent its progression to surrounding cells.
- Early stages of mouth cancer are commonly treated using radiation therapy and chemotherapy medications.
- This radiation therapy procedure aims at killing or shrinking the growth of cancerous cells in the mouth region.
- Chemotherapy medications such as Cisplatin, carboplatin, 5-fluorouracil and paclitaxel are generally used to slow the growth of the cancerous cell or help relieve symptoms.
What are the risk factors for mouth cancer?
The factors that increase your risk of developing mouth cancer include:
- Sexual contact (oral) with someone with human papillomavirus (HPV) increases your risk of developing mouth cancer.
- Immunosuppression or coexisting health conditions: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more prone to developing cancer.
- Long-term use of marijuana or tobacco products can cause changes in mouth cells leading to cancer.
- An unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking, may also increase your risk of mouth cancer.
What are the stages of mouth cancer?
Based on their extent of spread, mouth cancer is classified into five stages:
- Stage 0: Early stage of mouth cancer, where cancer is found only on the surface of the mouth
- Stage I: Cancer may penetrate deeper and affect the neighbouring tissue but has not started to spread (metastasize). The size of the tumor is not more than 2 cm.
- Stage II: The mouth cancer cells may spread outside the mouth. The size of the tumor is more than 2 cm and less than 4 cm.
- Stage III: Cancerous cells spread to the sidewalls of the mouth, which, in turn, may cause edema (swelling) of the neck and neighbouring organs. There is no distant spread.
- Stage IV: Severe stage of cancer, where the cancerous cells spread from the mouth to distant body parts
What is the standard test for detecting mouth cancer?
Doctors diagnose mouth cancer by enquiring about the patient’s medical history, signs, symptoms, and physical examination, followed by diagnostic imaging tests and tissue biopsy.
Other diagnosis tests for mouth cancer include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test: This test detects the presence of HPV-DNA in the salivary samples, which can be used as an indirect indicator to assess the risk of mouth cancer.
How to prevent mouth cancer?
Some of the following measures may help prevent the risk of developing mouth cancer:
- Regular screening will help detect early signs and reduces the risk of cancer progression
- Getting an HPV vaccine prevents human papillomavirus infection, one of the leading causative factors for mouth cancer.
- Avoiding unwanted use of oral pills or medications
- Avoiding smoking and usage of tobacco products
- Dietary change and healthy lifestyle modification can prevent mouth cancer.
Measures to prevent recurrence of mouth cancer after treatment
- Radiation therapy at the site of recurrence can kill cancerous cells after the surgery.
- Have regular follow-up exams and screening tests to look for signs of recurrence of cancer.
Alternate names of mouth cancer
Oral cancer, Lip cancer
Epidemiology of mouth cancer
The estimated incidence of mouth cancer is high in men compared to women globally. Since it takes many years to develop, it is found in people above the age of 55.
Fortunately, recent advancement in diagnostic procedures, treatment options, and medication has drastically reduced the number of new cases of mouth cancer and its associated death.
Like other cancer types, if left untreated, mouth cancer spreads to surrounding organs of the mouth such as the head, neck, lungs and so on. This progression may cause life-threatening health conditions and can even lead to death.
Mouth cancer is characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the mouth. It is majorly caused by the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus, and it remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related death worldwide.
The possible complications of advanced mouth cancer are:
- Lymph node swelling in the neck
- Blood clots and lump formation
- Radiating pain in nerve ending, bones, and muscles
Our Medical Mouth Cancer Treatment in Mumbai, India Experts
If you are facing any similar signs or symptoms please contact the Nanavati Max team to schedule an appointment at : +91 22 6836 0000