Mouth Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
Mouth cancer-also referred to as oral or oropharyngeal cancer-is one of the most common types of cancer that develop in the head and neck region. Though treatable, thousands of people die each year as a result of this condition. It’s widely believed that mortality rates are so high simply because it doesn’t present many symptoms. In most cases, mouth cancer is only discovered after it has metastasized to another location. When this occurs, the prognosis is significantly worse.
Most cases of mouth cancer are believed to be caused by tobacco use-this includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. Alcohol can also increase the risk of mouth cancer, and if tobacco and alcohol are regularly combined, the risk is even greater. More recent findings say that the human papilloma virus (HPV) contributes to the formation of mouth cancer as well.
Types of Mouth Cancers
More than 90% of mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinomas-meaning the cancer forms in the cells that cover the inside of the mouth, nose, larynx and throat. Although it is the most common, squamous cell carcinoma is not the only type of cancer that can develop in the mouth. The other 10% of cases usually involve the following types of skin cancer:
- Verrucous carcinoma: This type of slow-growing cancer is also made up of squamous cells , but it rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
- Minor salivary gland carcinomas: Certain types of cancer can develop in the minor salivary glands that line your oral cavity. They are typically benign, but it can spread.
- Adenoid cystic cancer: This rare form of cancer mostly affects the salivary glands, but it can also occur in the mouth.
- Melanoma: This type of cancer is mostly found on the mouths or lips, though it can appear inside the mouth or nose as well.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
There are many symptoms that could indicate mouth cancer. The most common and obvious of these is the appearance of non-healing wounds or lesions on the tongue or along the inner cheek. Other common symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- Persistent pain in and around the mouth
- White or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Numbness of the tongue
- Jaw swelling
- Voice changes
- Persistent bad breath
Often times, mouth cancer can be mistaken for other problems, like a toothache or the common cold. However, if symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it’s important to visit your physician for a consultation.
Diagnosing Mouth Cancer
When it comes to treating mouth cancer, early diagnosis is crucial. Many cases of mouth cancer are found by a dentist during an annual cleaning. However, for those who do not attend the dentist regularly, your doctor can complete a series of tests to determine whether or not your symptoms indicate mouth cancer.
Your doctor will start by closely examining the roof and floor of your mouth. He or she will also examine the back of your throat, tongue, cheeks and the lymph nodes for any signs of mouth cancer. Depending on the results of the physical exam, your doctor may choose to perform a biopsy to collect cells from the growth. This is done so the tissue can be tested for cancerous cells. Imaging tests like an MRI may also be necessary to see whether the cancer has metastasized or not.
Mouth Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with mouth cancer, the treatment plan your doctor suggests will depend on the cancer’s location and stage , as well as your overall health and personal preferences. Chemotherapy, targeted radiation therapy and surgery are the more common treatment options. As with most cancers, the earlier the intervention the better.
Request more information about Oral Cancer today. Call or contact us online.