Cancer Support Group

Monday, Nov 20th

Last update:06:42:40 AM GMT

Oral Cancer FAQs

Who is at risk for oral cancer?
The following are risk factors for oral cancer
  • Tobacco: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, chewing tobacco, and dipping snuff are all linked to oral cancer. The use of other tobacco products (such as bidis) may also increase the risk of oral cancer. Heavy smokers who use tobacco for a long time are most at risk. The risk is even higher for tobacco users who drink alcohol heavily. In fact, three out of four oral cancers occur in people who use alcohol, tobacco, or both alcohol and tobacco.
  • Alcohol: People who drink alcohol are more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don’t drink. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person consumes. The risk increases even more if the person both drinks alcohol and uses tobacco.
  • Sun: Cancer of the lip can be caused by exposure to the sun. Using a lotion or lip balm that has a sunscreen can reduce the risk. Wearing a hat with a brim can also block the sun’s harmful rays. The risk of cancer of the lip increases if the person also smokes.
  • A personal history of head and neck cancer: People who have had head and neck cancer are at increased risk of developing another primary head and neck cancer. Smoking increases this risk.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
Early detection: Regular checkups can detect the early stages of oral cancer or conditions that may lead to oral cancer. Ask your doctor or dentist about checking the tissues in your mouth as part of your routine exam.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer
  • Patches inside your mouth or on your lips that are white, red, or both mixed.
  • White patches are the most common.
  • Mixed red and white patches.
  • Red patches.
  • A sore on your lip or in your mouth that won’t heal.
  • Bleeding in your mouth.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing.
  • A lump in your neck.
  • An earache
How is oral cancer treated?
Treatment for oral cancer
Staging: If the biopsy shows that cancer is present, your doctor needs to know the stage of your disease to plan the best treatment. The stage is based on the size of the tumor.

Staging may require lab tests. It also may involve endoscopy. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) to check your throat, windpipe, and lungs. The doctor inserts the endoscope through your nose or mouth. Local anesthesia is used to ease your discomfort and prevent you from gagging. Some people also may have a mild sedative. Sometimes the doctor uses general anesthesia to put a person to sleep.

The doctor may ask you to do following tests to learn whether the cancer has spread
  • Dental x–rays: An x–ray of your entire mouth can show whether cancer has spread to the jaw.
  • Chest x–rays: Images of your chest and lungs can show whether cancer has spread to these areas.
  • CT scan: An x–ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of your body. Tumors in the mouth, throat, neck, or elsewhere in the body show up on the CT scan.
  • MRI: A powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of your body An MRI can show whether oral cancer has spread.
What happens after treatment for oral cancer?
Follow–up care for oral cancer
  • Even when the cancer seems to have been completely removed or destroyed, the disease sometimes returns because undetected cancer cells remained in the body after treatment. The doctor monitors your recovery and checks for recurrence of cancer. Checkups help ensure that any changes in your health are noted. Your doctor will probably encourage you to inspect your mouth regularly and continue to have exams when you visit your dentist. It is important to report any changes in your mouth right away.
  • Checkups include exams of the mouth, throat, and neck. From time to time, your doctor may do a complete physical exam, order blood tests, and take x–rays.
  • People who have had oral cancer have a chance of developing a new cancer in the mouth, throat, or other areas of the head and neck. This is especially true for those who use tobacco or who drink alcohol heavily. Doctors strongly urge their patients to stop using tobacco and drinking to cut down the risk of a new cancer and other health problems.

What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is part of a group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and mouth.

4D’s to help you give up smoking
  • When one has a pressing urge to smoke, one must delay following one’s impulses. One must not give in to it easily – it will mostly pass.
  • One could do some deep breathing.
  • One must drink some water.
  • Finally, one ought to do something else to distract oneself. One could of course, try a new hobby or sport and keep one’s hands busy.

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