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Oral Cancer       

Oral cancer or mouth cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the floor of the mouth, cheek lining, gingiva (gums), or palate (roof of the mouth).
 

oral cancer, mouth cancer, tongue, gum disease, jack wild

 
Jack Wild
, who earned an Oscar nomination as a teenager for his role as the Artful Dodger in the 1968 film Oliver! has died from oral cancer. He was 53.

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:
  • Theodore G. Bilbo; William Brassington; Burl Ives; Gordon MacRae; Milton McPike; Bruce Paltrow; Bob Prince; Vineeta Rastogi; W. Laird Stabler, Jr.; Jack Wild
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.
 

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 bidis and 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 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.

Early Detection

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.
 

Symptoms

  • 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. More details...
 

Diagnosis

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 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.

 

Treatment

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 surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Other health care professionals who may work with the specialists as a team include a dentist, speech pathologist, nutritionist, and 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.
 
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Looking forward to hearing from you

Aleksandr V. Melekhin, DDS

 

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