Oral cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of cells in the oral cavity, i.e., in any part of the mouth including lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, etc. Like other cancers, oral cancer is also not an uncommon occurrence nowadays. People who regularly smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and/or consume alcohol are at a high risk of developing oral cancer. The condition is life-threatening, and more than 5 people in India are estimated to die every hour because of oral cancer.
However, if caught early enough, the probability of survival can be high. Although healthcare professionals look for early signs of mouth cancer during routine checkups, it is also crucial that you identify these warning signs yourself so that you can bring them to the attention of your doctor at the earliest.
If you think you may have oral cancer, here are some common early signs you can look out for:
- Persistent difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Trouble moving the jaw or tongue
- Persistent, recurring swellings, lumps, or patches in or around the mouth
- The feeling of a lump or object stuck in the throat
- Numbness, pain or tenderness anywhere in the mouth, including the tongue
- Ear pain that is not linked to any ear problem
- A lingering sore throat or hoarseness of voice
- Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
- Loosening of the teeth in the absence of an evident dental disease
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
Apart from tobacco (in the form of a cigarette, or smokeless) and increased amount of alcohol, there are some other factors that can heighten your risk of developing oral cancer. These include:
- Dental factors: Although rarely, poor oral hygiene, improperly fitting dental appliances, defective dental fillings, or misaligned or sharp teeth might increase the chances of oral cancer.
- Dietary factors: A diet poor in or devoid of beta-carotene (found in many fruits and vegetables) is likely to put you at risk of oral cancer.
- Poor immunity: Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are more common in people who have a weak immune system.
Many of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can also be caused by factors other than cancer, or even by other cancers. However, it is very important to see a doctor or dentist if any of these abnormalities last for more than 2 weeks so that the cause can be pinpointed and addressed.
Remember! Prevention is better than cure, and early detection can help in avoiding this disease. Also, not just medications, but a healthy lifestyle also plays a key role in preventing the occurrence of oral cancer. Make sure you avoid the consumption of alcohol and tobacco in any form. Eat healthy and live healthy!