Oral Cancer Types, Stages, Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnostic Procedures, Treatment, Specialists & Doctors
Oral cancer originates in the tissues of the mouth, throat, or other parts of the oral cavity. It is a part of head and neck cancers. Oral cancer is caused when cells in any part of the oral cavity undergo changes, known as a mutation, in their DNA. These abnormal cells may form a tumor and with the passage of time, they may spread to other parts of the oral cavity as well as to other parts of the body. It generally develops in the squamous cells that are flat and thin. These cells are present in your lips and other parts of your mouth.
Oral cancer is dangerous as it does not get noticed in its early stages and by the time it gets discovered, it has already metastasized to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes of the neck. It also has a high risk of generating second primary tumors if not get noticed in the early stages. It is better to contact your doctors if you find anything suspicious.
This article will help you to know more about oral cancer, its types, risk factors, signs & symptoms, the process of diagnosis, stages and the treatment of oral cancer.
What are the types of oral cancer?
Oral cancer may be categorized into cancers of the:
- Inner surface of the cheek also known as buccal mucosa
- Hard & soft palate
- Floor of the mouth
You must contact your dentist frequently who will provide you the first healthcare in noticing any symptoms and signs of oral cancer.
What are the stages of oral cancer?
Oral Cancer may be categorized into four stages
Stage I- In this stage, the cancer cells have not yet travelled to the lymph nodes and the tumor is 2 cm or smaller than 2 cm.
Stage II- In this stage, the tumor is generally 2-4 cm and the cancer cells have yet not travelled to the lymph nodes.
Stage III- In this stage, the tumor may be larger than 4 cm but not yet travelled to the lymph nodes or the tumor may be of any size and the cancer cells have travelled to one of the lymph nodes but not to other areas of the body.
Stage IV- In this stage, the tumor may be of any size and the cancer cells have travelled to neighbouring tissues, the lymph nodes or even to other areas of the body.
The doctor will design the treatment based on the stage of the cancer.
What are the signs & symptoms of oral cancer?
It is very important to know about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer as this cancer does not get identified easily.
Some of the signs & symptoms of oral cancer are-
- A wound or lesion on your lip or mouth that does not heal within two weeks.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- If your neck has a lump.
- An earache that is frequent.
- Numbness in lower lip, face, chin, or neck.
- Patches in your mouth or lips that may be white, red, or both in appearance.
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw.
- A sore throat.
- Pain in the tongue.
- Bleeding in the mouth for unknown reasons.
- Losing weight dramatically.
In case of any of the signs & symptoms, you should consult your doctor who will diagnose these and provide you the needful healthcare.
What are the risk factors of oral cancer?
The risk factors that may contribute in causing oral cancer are-
- Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes make you six times more vulnerable to oral cancers than persons who do not smoke.
- Using dip snuff and chewing tobacco products make you 50 times more vulnerable to cancers of the gums, cheek and lips.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol makes you 6 times more vulnerable to oral cancers than persons who do not consume alcohol.
- Any family or personal history of cancer may be another factor for oral cancer.
- Exposure to excessive sunlight especially at a young age.
- Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC) may be caused due to certain Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- Poor nutrition.
It is generally found that over 25% of all oral cancers develop in people who drink alcohol occasionally and do not smoke.
What are the diagnostic procedures for oral cancer?
The doctor or a dentist may conduct a physical examination by closely inspecting the tongue, cheeks, roof and floor of your mouth. He or she may also examine the lymph nodes in your neck. You may also be asked to refer to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
On finding any suspicious lesions or growth of any tumor, the doctor may conduct a tissue biopsy or a brush biopsy. In tissue biopsy, a piece of the tissue is removed for examination through a microscope for any cancerous cells while in brush biopsy which is a painless test, cells are collected from the tumor by brushing them onto a slide.
The doctor may even perform additional tests such as-
- X- rays to examine if there is any presence of cancer cells in the jaw, chest or lungs areas of the body.
- A CT scan to find if any tumor is present in your throat, mouth, neck, lungs or other parts of the body.
- A PET scan to examine if there is any presence of cancer cells in other organs or in the lymph nodes.
- An MRI scan to clearly visualize the image of the head and neck and examine the stage and extent of the cancer.
- An Endoscopy to inspect trachea, windpipe, inner throat, sinuses and nasal passages. Once the diagnosis is done, your doctor will determine the stage of cancer.
How is the treatment done for oral cancer?
There are various methods through which treatment for oral cancer may be done. However, the treatment depends on the stage, the type, and the location of the cancer
Surgery- Early- stages of oral cancer may be treated by performing surgery in which the tumor and the cancerous lymph nodes are removed. Sometimes, the doctor may also remove other tissues around the areas of the mouth and neck.
Radiation Therapy- In this, high doses of energy beams are targeted at the site of the tumor once or twice a day and five days a week so that the cancer cells may destroy. This process may be carried for 2 -8 weeks. The advanced stages of oral cancer generally involve both radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy- This is a treatment in which drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells. The medicine or the drug may be given to you either orally or via an intravenous line. Depending on your condition, you may be asked to be hospitalized or may be asked to visit the hospital frequently to have this treatment.
Targeted Therapy- This treatment may be used for both early and advanced stages of cancer in which targeted therapy drugs are used. These drugs hinder the growth of the cancer cells as they bind to specific proteins of the cancer cells.
The role of nutrition also plays a major role in your oral cancer treatment as these treatments may make it hard to eat and swallow your food. Consult your doctor and seek the advice of a nutritionist for consuming healthy foods which are gentle on your mouth and throat.
Need to consult specialists/Doctors for oral cancer in Delhi NCR?
At Yashoda Superspeciality Hospital & Cancer Institute, Sanjay Nagar, Ghaziabad, you get all the facilities you need for the treatment of oral cancer. We have specialists from all fields of medical sciences. You will have experienced dental as well as ENT specialists who will diagnose your symptoms and signs and provide you with immediate healthcare. We also have all technologically advanced machines to treat your cancer by experts from surgical and medical oncology who will design the type of treatment and therapy you require. Our surgical oncologist, Dr. (Brig.) Arvind Kumar Tyagi is a world-renowned surgical oncologist with training from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. He has also served as Director of a 500-bedded facility at AFMS, Pune. With his medical experience spanning a period of more than 30 years, Dr. (Brig.) Arvind Kumar Tyagi is the best cancer specialist to treat your oral cancer surgically. For radiation interventions, we have Dr. (Col.) N. Chakravarty and Dr. (Maj. Gen) B.N. Kapur for chemotherapy both ex-army specialists and highly trained and exceptionally skilled in treating your cancer. With 30,000+ satisfied patients and a collective experience spanning 90 years, Yashoda Superspeciality Hospital & Cancer Institute, Sanjay Nagar, Ghaziabad is the ideal hospital to treat and cure your oral cancer.