Oral Cancer Awareness: Risks, Early Detection, and Treatment

Many of us have heard of oral cancer. However, only some of us actually know the main risk factors. This can be concerning as we might have a few common habits that could lead to this condition. In this blog, we will look at the common risk factors and ways to detect oral cancer symptoms early, helping you get treatment as soon as possible.

What Is Oral Cancer?

The mouth, floor of the mouth, palate, tongue, gums, and mucosal lips can all develop oral malignancies. In an ongoing study from 2012 to 2017, oral cancer is estimated to have up to 310,000 new cases per year in South Africa alone.

Approximately 60% of people initially diagnosed with these tumours will not survive for more than five years. Furthermore, a significant number of those who do make it through experience chronic issues like severe facial deformities or trouble speaking and eating.

Common Risk Factors

When looking at what causes oral cancer, there are many things to consider. Tobacco use and human papillomavirus are the main contributing factors, so we will go into more detail about these two below. However, it is essential to note that there are other factors, such as alcohol abuse and poor diet.

Tobacco Use

One of the most significant risk factors for malignancies of the head and neck, including oral cavity cancers, is tobacco use. Smokers have a far higher chance of developing certain cancers than non-smokers do. The majority of patients with these malignancies have a history of tobacco use, including chewing tobacco. You run a higher risk the more you smoke. You run a higher chance of developing certain malignancies if you smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

An HPV infection can bring on oral cancer. The kind of HPV most frequently associated with oropharyngeal cancer, particularly in the tonsils and base of the tongue, is HPV type 16 (HPV16). About two out of every three oropharyngeal malignancies and a significantly lesser percentage of oral cavity tumours include HPV DNA, an indicator of HPV infection.

Early Detection & Symptoms

The best way to detect any diseases early is to be aware of symptoms and to be mindful of them. Early symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • A persistent red or white spot
  • Increasing expansion or swelling
  • An ulcer that doesn’t heal
  • Prolonged hoarse voice
  • Sudden movement of teeth without apparent reason
  • Unusual surface changes
  • Unusual bleeding in the mouth or epistaxis

These are symptoms of the early stages. If you experience any of these for a prolonged period of time, it is important to seek advice from a dentist as soon as possible.

Different Treatments Available

When treating early-stage oral cancer, surgery and radiation therapy are used frequently, alone or in combination. The location of the tumour, the expected cosmetic and functional results, the patient’s age, any comorbidities, their preferences, and the availability of specialists all influence the treatment chosen. Most early-stage oral malignancies have little to no functional and physical damage when treated locally with removal or radiation. This emphasises the importance of early detection in oral cancer treatment.

Enamel Clinic, the Experts at Preventative Dentistry

Now that you know the dangers of oral cancer, the common risk factors, and how these can be detected and treated, it is vital to ensure you do regular screenings and check-ups. The dental professionals at Enamel Clinic can assist you in early detection and help you with your treatment plan if necessary, providing you with expert care and advice. The quicker you act, the better, so don’t wait—book a virtual consultation now!