|Oral cancer or mouth cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the
lips or the
It may also occur on the floor of the mouth, cheek lining,
or palate (roof of the mouth).
|Jack Wild, who earned an
Oscar nomination as a teenager for his role as the Artful Dodger in the
Oliver! has died from oral cancer. He was
The actor blamed his cancer on years of heavy drinking and smoking.
"My lifestyle had made me a walking time bomb," he said last year.
Mouth cancer deaths:
In 2008, in the
USA alone, about 34,000 individuals will be
diagnosed with oral cancer. 66% of the time these will be found as late
stage three and four disease.
- Theodore G. Bilbo;
W. Laird Stabler, Jr.; Jack Wild
Who's at Risk?
|People with certain
risk factors are more likely than
others to develop mouth cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases
your chance of developing a disease:
- Tobacco use accounts for most oral cancers.
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes; using chewing tobacco; and
dipping snuff are all linked to oral cancer. The use of other
tobacco products (such as
kreteks) may also increase the
risk of mouth 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
- 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
- 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.
|Your regular checkup is a good time for your dentist or doctor to
check your entire mouth for signs of cancer. Regular checkups can detect
the early stages of mouth 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.
- Patches inside your mouth or on your lips that are white, a
mixture of red and white, or red
- White patches (leukoplakia)
are the most common. White patches sometimes become malignant.
- Mixed red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia)
are more likely than white patches to become malignant.
- Red patches (erythroplakia)
are brightly colored, smooth areas that often become malignant.
- A sore on your lip or in your mouth that won't heal
- Bleeding in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Difficulty wearing dentures
- A lump in your neck
- An earache
|Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor or dentist so that any
problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Most often,
these symptoms do not mean cancer. An infection or another problem can
cause the same symptoms.
|If you have symptoms that suggest oral 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
local anesthesia. Sometimes, it is
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.
|Many people with oral cancer want to take an active part in making
decisions about their medical care. It is natural to want to learn all
you can about your disease and your treatment choices. However, shock
and stress after the diagnosis can make it hard to think of everything
you want to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions
before an appointment. To help remember what the doctor says, you may
take notes or ask whether you may use a tape recorder. You may also want
to have a family member or friend with you when you talk to the
doctor—to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.
- Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a
referral. Specialists who treat oral cancer include
oral and maxillofacial surgeons,
otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and
throat doctors), medical oncologists,
radiation oncologists, and
plastic surgeons. You may be
referred to a team that includes specialists in
radiation therapy, or
chemotherapy. Other health care
professionals who may work with the specialists as a team include a
dentist, speech pathologist,
mental health counselor.
Side Effects of
Oral Cancer Treatment
|Because treatment often damages healthy cells and tissues, unwanted
side effects are common. These side effects depend mainly on the
location of the tumor and the type and extent of the treatment. Side
effects may not be the same for each person, and they may even change
from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, your
health care team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to
help you manage them.
|Looking forward to hearing from
V. Melekhin, DDS
Return from Oral Cancer to Philadelphia Dentist