Oral cancer is still considered one of the least known types of cancer today. At the same time, however, a relatively large number of people suffer from the disease. How can that be? Due to the limited level of awareness, many of those affected suffer unnoticed from oral cancer. A fatal medical fact that costs the lives of many patients diagnosed with oral cancer every year. But if caught early, oral cancer can often be completely cured.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer refers to the type of cancer that can affect the lips and the entire mouth. So not like, for example, throat and esophagus cancer, where the throat and esophagus are more affected. See electronicsmatter for CHARGE Syndrome Definition.
However, these cancers often mix, which is why they tend to appear together. In oral cancer, cancer can affect the lips, gums, salivary glands, inner cheeks, gums, and even the tongue.
The lower lip is very often affected. This is the case for almost half of the oral cancer diagnoses recorded in Germany. By the way, men get sick more often than women and, according to statistics, oral cancer usually only occurs after the age of 40.
The most common causes of oral cancer are excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption. According to current studies, the risk can multiply enormously, especially if you pursue both “vices” or “pleasures” at the same time for a long time.
People who chew tobacco are particularly at risk. Their risk is even 50 times greater of developing oral cancer later. Under certain circumstances, absolute non-smokers and people who rarely or never drink alcohol can also develop oral cancer.
The causes can also be a hereditary predisposition as well as environmental and health-related stresses to which the person concerned is or was exposed for a long time.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Depending on where in the mouth a cancerous growth forms, it has plenty of room to expand. Oral cancer can therefore not cause any significant symptoms over a long period of time. The self-examination of the oral cavity, supplemented by the dental check-up, is of correspondingly great importance.
White or gray areas in the mouth that appear raised and may also start to bleed when touched can be a sign of cancer in the mouth. In principle, it can settle anywhere on the oral mucosa, so you should check it yourself regularly. Holes in the mucous membrane can also represent a preliminary stage of carcinoma.
In general, complaints such as burning in the mouth, stabbing pains or events such as a taste of blood in the mouth or visible blood should be presented to the doctor. In the advanced stage, oral cancer spreads further in the oral cavity and often begins to bleed.
The decaying tissue can fester and cause a correspondingly bad taste in the mouth and bad breath. Bad breath is often associated with inadequate oral hygiene or stomach problems. However, bad breath, which occurs repeatedly and over a long period of time despite careful hygiene, should also be discussed with the dentist.
Diagnosis & History
Unfortunately, timely detection and thus diagnosis of oral cancer is anything but easy. For this reason, the disease often remains undetected for far too long.
Oral cancer begins with minimal sores in the mouth that accumulate as the disease progresses. However, these are often combined with inexplicable pain in the entire interior of the mouth and on the lips. This gradually makes chewing, swallowing and even speaking more difficult, more painful and finally almost impossible.
In addition, progressive numbness and swelling often occur. Visible tumors are also diagnosed, but not too often. The situation is different with red and white spots on the gums, which are increasingly traded as signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer manifests itself with tumors on the tongue, palate or jaw and should be recognized and treated early. If the disease is not treated until the advanced stage of the disease, it can lead to serious deterioration and even death of the patient. In advanced stages, the cancer can cause complications with swallowing and eating, leading to emaciation and dehydration.
Those who have oral cavity cancer treated early have a better chance of recovery. Older people in particular have to reckon with worsening of the disease. The younger those affected are, the better the chances of recovery. After completing treatment for oral cancer, some patients develop new tumors, and patients who are younger often bring with them a susceptibility to lymph node recurrence.
Although oral cancer usually does not cause any problems in the early stages, the complications increase steadily as the tumor grows. In the course of cancer, there are often disorders in the oral cavity, such as hoarseness, bad breath and difficulty swallowing. Chest pain and tongue movement disorders can also be seen as side effects of oral cancer.
When should you go to the doctor?
If there is swelling in the mouth, which occurs after biting the lip or tongue, a doctor is not needed. The symptoms usually subside within a few days until they have finally disappeared completely.
In the case of swelling in the mouth that is not caused by an accident or injury, it is advisable to consult a doctor. A feeling of tightness in the mouth, pain or disturbances when crushing the food should be clarified by a doctor. If there is bleeding, inflammation or problems with an existing denture, it is advisable to see a doctor to find the cause of the symptoms. Sudden hypersensitivity to different temperature influences of the ingested food, a weakness in the usual chewing force or a refusal to eat food indicate a health impairment. A doctor’s visit is necessary because there is a disorder.
In severe cases and with a delayed start of treatment, a fatal course of the disease is possible. For this reason, a doctor’s visit should be made at the first irregularities and changes. A taste of blood, bad breath, and a burning sensation in the mouth should be presented to a doctor. If there is weight loss, abnormal behavior or disturbances in vocalization, a doctor is needed. Susceptibility to diseases of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat are further signs of health impairment.
Treatment & Therapy
The right place to go if you suspect oral cancer is the treating dentist. He is able to initiate all further procedures for diagnosis and treatment. If oral cancer is detected early, it can usually be treated more or less gently and sustainably.
Only in moderate to severe stages does surgery, radiation or more extensive chemotherapy have to be resorted to. However, the treatment can be difficult, especially in serious cases – because the affected tissue cannot always be removed and treated without hesitation.
It is therefore extremely important to ensure timely early detection, even when treating oral cancer. Heavy smokers, users of chewing tobacco and people who drink alcohol more frequently should therefore speak regularly to their dentist about appropriate check-ups.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for oral cancer depends crucially on the stage at which a tumor is diagnosed. In principle, the diagnosis of the disease immediately after it occurs has the best chance of recovery. The fact that a tumor in the oral cavity cannot be seen from the outside proves to be problematic. White spots are not noticeable to the patient himself. They are usually discovered by chance by partners or doctors. As a result, unused time often elapses in which treatment could take place. Therefore, many diagnoses are made late.
If the oral cancer metastasizes, the prospects even worsen considerably. Scientists determine the 5-year survival rate with metastases on the cervical lymph node at 40 percent. For comparison: If the tumor has not expanded, around two-thirds of all patients are still alive after the fifth year.
Around 13,000 people develop oral cancer in Germany every year. Men are more susceptible than women. Significantly poorer chances of a normal lifespan are given to patients who have smoked or consumed alcohol for years. Poor oral hygiene and dental care also promote the aggressiveness of the tumor. The prognosis also worsens for old and weakened people.
The best way to prevent a diagnosis of oral cancer is to avoid excessive and long-term alcohol consumption and smoking. Increased oral hygiene is also quite helpful, but not an absolutely reliable means of prevention.
Brushing your teeth regularly and using mouthwash can reduce the risk of developing oral cancer – but cannot completely eliminate it. Nicotine in particular is one of the substances that promotes oral cancer the most when smoking.
And: Regular check-ups at the treating dentist cannot prevent oral cancer per se, but can make treatment much easier, more targeted, more promising and gentler through early detection.
After the completion of the actual therapeutic measures, the aftercare of the oral cancer begins. The primary goal is to prevent the disease from breaking out again. In addition, the patient should regain the necessary condition to cope with everyday life.
Medical check-ups are carried out at regular intervals to check the healing process. This procedure gives the doctor the opportunity to recognize and treat any consequential damage in good time. Likewise, a recurrence of the oral tumor can be diagnosed at an early stage.
The follow-up examinations extend over a period of five years. In the first two years, they should be carried out at three-month intervals. From the third year, they can take place every six months. In addition to the usual check-ups, regular visits to the dentist are also useful.
Oral cancer often affects speech and swallowing skills. These are treated as part of the aftercare by physiotherapists and speech therapists. If the patient is at risk of poor nutrition, the advice of a nutritionist is recommended. If necessary, this can also be followed by nutritional treatment.
Serious diseases such as oral cancer often have a negative effect on the patient’s psyche. In such cases, psychosocial support is possible. This occurs, among other things, when the person concerned is suffering from depression or anxiety.
You can do that yourself
If you suspect oral cancer, you should speak to your dentist. A suitable therapy can be worked out together with the physician, through which the cancer can usually be treated gently and sustainably.
In the first stage of the disease, strict oral hygiene must be observed in addition to medical treatment. Since there is an increased risk of infection, medicinal preparations should be taken to strengthen the oral flora. With the consent of the doctor, various natural remedies can also be tried, such as ginseng or arnica. The diet may also need to be changed. In the case of oral cancer, a gentle diet with sufficient raw food and lean meat that is not overly seasoned is recommended. At the same time, the consumption of any stimulants must be stopped. Heavy smokers and people who drink alcohol regularly are particularly susceptible to oral cancer. Likewise, people who suffer from a chronic disease of the teeth or gums.
Persons to whom these factors apply should immediately consult a doctor with the symptoms mentioned. If these measures are followed, oral cancer can be treated well. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the cancer has not yet formed metastases. To ensure this, further physical examinations should be carried out parallel to the treatment.