What is Oral Cancer and How is it Treated?

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Occurring in all ages, genders and nationalities, oral cancer is a broad term that applies to cancer within any part of the mouth, throat, lips, tongue, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx and sinuses. In many cases, this cancer is treatable, but in some cases, it can be fatal. While this type of cancer can even occur in children, there are a number of risk factors in adults that will affect your risk of cancer. These include smoking, chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, a risk of cancer within your family and human papillomavirus (HPV). Men have a higher risk for this type of cancer – particularly men over 50 years of age. With that said, non-smoking, non-drinking people with no risk factors have also been treated for oral cancer.

Prevention and early detection are key in how easily this type of cancer is treated. This is another reason why regular dental check-ups are so important. Sticking to your twice a year appointments will ensure that your dentist in Durban is able to spot any warning signs before they worsen. Leaving any symptoms or warning signs unchecked can make it far harder to treat this form of cancer.

What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

There are a number of warning signs that you should watch out for when brushing your teeth. Getting into the habit of doing a quick exam is the best way to look out for potential symptoms that last longer than two weeks. In some cases, your dentist may spot symptoms that cannot be easily seen. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:

Any swelling, lumps, sores or thick patches or growths anywhere in the mouth, gums, tongue or throat. These may be painful or they may not have any sensitivity at all.

Any red or white spots or lesions. These can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inner cheeks , throat or any other part of the mouth. In some cases, they may be only red or white lesions, and in other cases, they may be red and white lesions present.

Any sensation of lumps or objects that feel stuck in your throat, or any swellings in the throat or mouth that cause discomfort.

Any pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth, whether it is on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, soft tissue inside the mouth or any other part of the mouth.

Any pain in one of your ears that does not accompany a loss of hearing or signs of ear infection.

Any problems moving your tongue or jaw, or any problems speaking, swallowing or chewing.

Any signs of loose teeth that are not caused by dental issues or injury.

Any sore throat or hoarseness that does not go away.

How Oral Cancer is Treated

Caught early, oral cancer is relatively easy to treat. The most common treatment options include surgery or radiation therapy. If the cancer is not caught early, a combination of treatments will likely be advised. This could include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, for example. Targeted therapy using specialised medication could also be used. Ultimately, treatment will depend on your overall health, the part of the mouth where the cancer was found, the size and type of tumour and whether the cancer has begun to spread or whether it is still localised. Your dentist or doctor may refer you to a specialist.

As we have stated before, the simplest and safest way to prevent cancer of the mouth is to make sure that you stick to your dentist appointments. This will catch small problems before they become bigger problems, which will also ensure that best chance of catching and treating oral cancer as quickly as possible.

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