Mouth Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment
Mouth cancer indicates cancer developing in any part of your oral cavity and can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inner cheek linings, mouth roof, and mouth floor beneath the tongue. Cancer arising in the mouth is also called oral cancer.
Mouth cancer is one of the different kinds of cancers categorized as head and neck cancer. The treatment for mouth cancer and head and neck cancer are similar.
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer can include an unhealing lip or mouth sore, white or reddish patches on the mouth insides, growths or lumps inside the mouth, loose teeth, mouth and ear pain, and painful chewing and swallowing.
If you have any persistent signs bothering you and lasting for over two weeks, it helps if you see your dentist for a routine dental checkup or your doctor to investigate the reasons for your symptoms to determine whether it is merely an infection.
Causes of Mouth Cancer
Various factors can increase your risk of mouth cancer. They are different types of tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, et cetera. Excessive use of alcohol and exposure to sunlight to your lips are also reasons for mouth cancer. A weakened immune system and sexually-transmitted diseases like human papillomavirus HPV can also cause oral cancer.
If you schedule your routine exam with the dentist in Seattle, they will perform an oral cancer screening during your mouth exam, looking for the above symptoms to determine whether you are affected by this devastating condition. Although dentists do not treat mouth cancer, they are the professionals you see twice yearly and have received training to detect signs of mouth cancer. Therefore if you are diligent with your dental hygiene routine and visit the dentist regularly, you will receive a comprehensive mouth exam to determine whether you have signs and symptoms of oral cancer to refer you to an oncologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer
General dentistry practices do not have the infrastructure to diagnose oral cancer but are equipped with the knowledge to detect early symptoms that might aggravate this devastating condition. However, they can examine your lips and mouth, looking for abnormalities or areas of irritation like sores and white patches.
The dental clinic can perform a biopsy to remove tissue from the suspicious area to take a sample of cells for testing by a laboratory. For example, the dentist might use a scalpel to cut away some tissue or perform a needle biopsy when removing the sample. The laboratory will analyze the cells for cancer or precancerous stages, indicating the signs of cancer later.
Ascertaining the Extent of the Cancer
After diagnosing mouth cancer, doctors will work to determine its extent. Cancer stages in the mouth vary from what dentists perform. They may include using a tiny camera to inspect your throat in a procedure called endoscopy by passing a flexible camera equipped with lights to look for signs of cancer spreading beyond the mouth.
They also perform various imaging tests to determine whether the cancer has spread beyond your mouth, and the tests may include X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and PET scans. All patients do not need these tests, and the doctor determines which tests they must perform appropriately for your situation.
Treatment for Mouth Cancer
The location and stage of mouth cancer will determine the treatment for the condition, besides your overall health and preferences. You may receive one type of cancer treatment or may be required to undergo various cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Therefore it helps if you discuss your options with the doctor to understand whether you need surgery to remove a specific tumor, eliminate cancer spreading to the neck, and surgery for mouth reconstruction.
You may require radiation using high-energy beams and protons to eradicate cancer cells. Radiation therapy involves delivering the treatment from an external machine, although it can also become necessary from radioactive seeds and wires placed near the surgical site.
Chemotherapy is a treatment in which doctors use chemicals to eradicate cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are given alone or in combination with other drugs to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy.
Besides the above, you may also receive targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy to fight cancer in your body.
If you want to avoid the risk factors of mouth cancer, you should adopt prevention techniques like stopping tobacco use or never starting, limiting alcohol consumption to moderation, excessive exposure of your lips to sunlight, and seeing your dentist every six months and asking them to inspect your entire mouth looking for abnormal areas that might indicate cancer without the concern of paying extra charges because mouth cancer screenings are included in routine exams.
Mouth cancer is a condition affecting many and causing approximately 50,000 fatalities in the US. If you want to prevent this condition from affecting you, Seattle Sound Dental performs a comprehensive screening of your mouth whenever you schedule your dental appointment with them. Therefore why not remain safer by arranging a meeting with the practice for routine checkups and cleanings and getting an oral cancer examination without extra charges by the dentist?