Research has yet to identify the cause of oral cancer and although we know that genetics has a major role, there are certain contributing factors that play a large part in the onset of this disease. Oral cancer is related to smoking and alcohol consumption; consequently the use of tobacco and consumption of large amounts of alcohol can increase the chances of cancer.
Another key factor is the presence of rough or jagged fillings and broken teeth, which cause constant irritation to the surrounding tongue, lip and cheek areas leading to cancerous sores.
Some of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
- A hard lump in the soft tissues of the mouth.
- Numbness in the lips, tongue or cheeks.
- Tightness in the throat with difficulty in swallowing.
- An ulcer that does not heal.
Cancer lesions in the early stages are small, flat and often found in areas that are not visible. A cancer screening is performed at our office at regular intervals. A self-examination between visits to check for any early signs is advisable. A screening consists of a neck and head exam, and checking the lips, gums, cheeks, palate and tongue.
The teeth should be maintained with no sharp or rough edges to irritate the surrounding tissues and any jagged retained roots be removed. Dentures should fit properly and no sore spots should be tolerated.
Detection is usually by means of a biopsy, which involves the removal of the lesion along with some surrounding tissue to be examined microscopically.
Treatment for oral cancer involves surgical removal, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination.