Get to Know Oral Cancers
Oral or mouth cancer occurs in the oral cavity such as on the lips, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, gums, roof, and floor of the mouth.
Oral cancers form when cells in the oral tissue mutate in their DNA, which tells the cell what to do. This mutation tells the cell to continue dividing and growing when healthy cells would die. Cancer-causing mutations will usually begin in the thin, squamous cells that line your lips and the inside of your mouth.
Some symptoms of oral cancer are:
- A persistent lip or mouth sore
- A white or reddish patch inside the mouth
- A growth or lump inside the mouth
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Loose teeth
If you experience any of these symptoms that last more than two weeks, talk to a doctor. They may not be cancerous but can be signs of a dangerous infection.
Types of oral cancers
Although most oral cancers occur in the thin linings of the mouth (squamous cell carcinoma), it’s helpful to learn the specific areas where they can begin and what treatment is best for each.
- Lip Cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early
- Gum Cancer is often mistaken as gingivitis and is highly curable if detected early
- Hard Palate Cancer is a rare type of oral cancer with the most common sign being an ulcer on the roof of the mouth
- Tongue Cancer usually begins as a persistent sore at the side of the tongue and may bleed easily
- Floor of Mouth Cancer can be mistaken as canker sores
- Buccal Mucosa Cancer occurs as a lump inside the cheek tissue
While cell mutation is the cause of cancer, no fact can determine why it happens. However, some risk factors that can increase the chances of an oral cancer may include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Tobacco use – cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vape pods, and chewing tobacco, among others
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) through sexual transmission
- Weak immune system
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
Like any type of cancer, there is no proven way to prevent them fully but there are some practises that can reduce their chances of occurring.
- Stop smoking or do not start at all. It exposes the cells in the oral cavity (and your lungs) to cancer-causing chemicals.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips by staying in the shade as much as possible and using a lip product that contains SPF.
- Consume alcohol in moderation. Alarming levels of alcohol can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them more vulnerable to cancer.
- Consult with a dentist regularly. Routine dental exams can help identify any signs of oral cancer.
- Rinse your mouth regularly with an alcohol-free mouthwash. Browse through Oradex’s range of alcohol-free mouthwashes here.