According to the 2003 National Cancer Registry in Malaysia, there are over 600 new cases of tongue, mouth, gums, salivary glands and oropharyngeal cancer every year!
Smoking does cause mouth cancer as well. It is called oral cancer, which comes under a broader group called oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth or throat). When detected early, oral cancer is almost always cured.
But unfortunately, so many people still present it at such a last stage. Oral cancer is more common in men than women because men tend to smoke more frequently.
Relatively speaking, oral cancer is easy to detect, but so many people still present it at a late stage? This is because this type of cancer is usually confused with other mouth, lips, tongue, cheek and throat diseases. Many people also overlooked the importance of having ENT (ear, nose, throat) screening in their yearly checkup, thinking it’s not important.
Also oral cancer is usually painless. So the hapless patient might think that innocent-looking swelling in his/her cheek is due to an ingrown wisdom tooth rather cancer. Most oral cancer are on the lips (easy to see), tongue or the floor of the mouth (easy to feel).
Things you have to look out for include:
- A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal. Or if it keeps on increasing in size (mouth cancer)
- Lumps in your mouth that don’t go away (mouth cancer)
- White read or dark patches inside your mouth that persist, or anything out of the ordinary that wasn’t there before (mouth cancer)
- Persistent pain in your mouth (mouth cancer)
- Repeated bleeding in the mouth
- Thickening of your cheek (mouth cancer growing inside the soft tissue)
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue (tongue cancer, mouth cancer, oropharyngeal cancer)
- Difficulty moving your jaw, swelling or pain in your jaw (mouth cancer, salivary gland cancer)
- Soreness in your throat or the feeling that something is caught in your throat (oropharyngeal cancer)
- Pain around your teeth (gum cancer)
- Loosening ofy our teeth (gum cancer)
- Numbness of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth (tongue cancer, mouth cancer, gum cancer, salivary gland cancer)
- A lump in your neck (salivary gland cancer)
- Bad breath
Tobacco use is one cause, which can gbe either smoking or chewing tobacco. Chewing tobacco exposes your inner cheek and inner surface of the lips to mutation.
Another is excessive alcohol drinking. Apparently, about 90% of people who have oral cancer have used some form of tobacco and about 75% of the same people are frequent drinkers of alcohol. If you use both toacco and alcohol, your risk is much higher.
Another risk factor is chronic denture irritation caused by poorly fitting dentures. If you smoke and drink alcohol on top of that, these ill-fitting dentures might trap the tobacco and alcohol particles and prolong your mouth’s exposure to them.
If you expose yourself to excessive ultraviolet light (sunlight), it may also cause oral cancer, particularly on the lips. It has been found that one out of three people with lip cancer have jobs or lifestyles that necessitate them being outdoors for long periods of time.
So, do not overlook that cancer can grow in the mouth as well. Make sure you include ENT in your regularly checkup plan. That’s why a comprehensive screening is important for today’s complex and hectic lifestyle society. Start your health management journey today and schedule a health screening. You will be amazed.
Source: NST Fit4life, Sunday 2 March 2008 Health At Large
Image courtesy: Oralcancerfoundation.org