Mouth cancer is caused by an uncontrolled growth of cells in the mouth. Mouth cancer includes cancer that starts anywhere in the mouth, including:-
- floor of the mouth or under the tongue
- inside the cheeks and lips
- roof of the mouth (the palate)
- area behind the wisdom teet
Types of Mouth Cancer (Oral Cancer)
Nine out of 10 mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. They develop in the flat, skin-like cells that cover the inside of the mouth. Other, rarer types of mouth cancer include:
- Salivary gland cancer – starts in the salivary gland cells
- Lymphoma – starts in lymph tissue near the base of the tongue and tonsils
- Melanoma – starts in skin pigment cells around the mouth or on the lips
Most people with mouth cancer have no early symptoms at all, but others may have:
- an ulcer in the mouth or on the lip that won’t heal
- constant pain or soreness
- red or white patches in the mouth
- a lump on the lip, tongue or in the neck
- bad breath
- unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- numbness in the mouth
- loose teeth
These symptoms aren’t always caused by mouth cancer but if you have them, visit your GP or dentist.
Risk Factors/Causes of Mouth Cancer (Oral Cancer)
Risk factors/Causes for the development of oral cancer include:
- Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.
- Smokeless tobacco users. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol. Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
- Family history of cancer.
- Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age.
- A weakened immune system, people who have HIV/AIDS, or who are taking medicines that suppress the immune system, are more likely to develop mouth cancer.
- The doctor or dentist checks your mouth and throat for red or white patches, lumps, swelling, or other problems. This exam includes looking carefully at the roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and insides of the cheeks and lips. The doctor or dentist also gently pulls out your tongue so it can be checked on the sides and underneath. The floor of your mouth and lymph nodes in your neck also are checked. If an exam shows an abnormal area, a small sample of tissue may be removed. Removing tissue to look for cancer cells is called a biopsy. Usually, a biopsy is done with local anesthesia. Sometimes, it is done under general anesthesia. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if the abnormal area is cancerous.
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Biopsy (a sample of suspect tissue is removed for examination in a laboratory)
- CT scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
- PET (position emission tomography) scan
- Simultaneous MRI-PET scans.
Treatment of Mouth Cancer (Oral Cancer)
Mouth Cancer (Oral cancer) is treated the same way many other cancers are treated; that is with surgery to remove the cancerous growth followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Prevention of Mouth Cancer (Oral Cancer)
- Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products
- Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lip, especially the lower lip. When in the sun, use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups.
- Look for any changes in your mouth such as, sore patches or ulcers that don’t heal and report them to your GP.
- Don’t chew tobacco.
- Drink only in moderation.
- Eat a healthy diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.