Cancer is perhaps one word that puts fear into every human. That’s not really surprising when you realise that there are a large number of different types of carcinoma. Modern research however is making a marked inroad into both detecting the disease earlier, and even stopping it spreading.
Facts about oral cancer
One of the least known carcinomas is oral cancer, so it is perhaps a good idea to give you some facts. For instance, in the United States around 36,000 people are diagnosed with oral and pharyngeal cancer each year. From this number about 50 per cent will survive to at least a further 5 years. While on the surface this seems a good statistic, unfortunately, this figure has remained relatively constant for many, many years; decades in fact.
This is further exacerbated when you add in the number of associated throat cancers. Worldwide this is 640,000 cases per year. The major problem with oral cancer is not the difficulty in diagnosing; rather it tends to be diagnosed too late. By then the disease will have taken hold and is likely to be found at secondary sites such as the lymph nodes in the neck.
What’s more, unlike other carcinomas such as skin or lung cancer, where symptoms are more discernible, with oral cancer patients rarely, if ever, show particular signs. In short, there is no early warning. To make matters worse, even if you are successfully treated the risk of developing a secondary cancer is 20 times higher. This risk factor can also last for 5 to 10 years.
Oral cancer is basically a tumour occurring in the mouth, technically called the oral cavity. It results from the development of abnormal tissue in a specific area. This is called a lesion. While lesion types are different, most – approximately 90 per cent – are squamous cell carcinomas.
Detect symptoms for early diagnosis
While early diagnosis is still difficult, practitioners are now realising that it is advisable for individuals to keep a check on anything unusual occurring in the mouth. For example, keep an eye on any sore found that doesn’t heal within 2 weeks. Similarly, check on a prolonged sore throat or a numbness of the tongue or some other area of the mouth.
Other possible symptoms include a lump or swelling in the cheek, white or red patches on the gums, lining of the mouth, tongue or tonsils; prolonged difficulty swallowing or a problem moving the jawbone or the tongue is another potential sign.
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