Mouth cancer or oral cancer has been categorized as a part of the head & neck cancer category. As such, the treatment for oral cancer is similar to those included in head & neck surgeries. Mouth cancer or oral cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, also called the oral cavity. A person can develop oral cancer across any of these parts:
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The several types of oral cancers are as follows:
Squamous Cell: This type of oral cancer accounts for almost 90 percent of the total oral cavity cancers. These cells are flat with the shape of fish scales as seen under a microscope. These cells border our mouth and throat under normal circumstances. Squamous cells can mutate, becoming aberrant. This gives rise to oral cancer.
Verrucous Carcinoma: It is a slow-growing tumor comprising squamous cells. This cancer comprises around 5 percent of all malignancies related to oral cavity. This type of mouth cancer rarely spreads to other body parts. However, it can penetrate the nearby tissues and affect them.
Salivary gland cancer: It is also known as minor cancer of the salivary gland. It is also slow-growing cancer. This cancer type is found across the mouth as well as within the throat walls. Some other examples of this cancer type are mucoepidermoid carcinoma and polymorphous adenocarcinoma.
Adenoid Cystic: It is a rare cancer tumor. It develops within the glandular tissues inside our salivary glands and mouth. The cancer is more common within parotid gland.
Lymphoma: The oral cancer type develops in our lymph tissues. The lymph nodes are a part of our immune system. The cancer is found within the lymphocytic tissues. These tissues are found inside our tonsils as well as our tongue base.
Melanoma: It is a type of oral cancer that develops from the pigment-producing cells within the skin. This results in a specific color of the tumor. Head & neck melanoma can develop in any part of the skin. These can include the interior of our mouth and nose, including the oral cavity.
Non-Cancerous tumors: Several types of non-cancerous or benign tumors can develop within the oropharynx and oral cavity. These benign and non-cancerous tumors often progress into malignant tumors. As such, it is important to surgically remove them at frequent intervals.
Leukoplakia & Erythroplakia: These are categorized as non-cancerous diseases developing in our throat or mouth, especially where the aberrant cells are found. Symptoms of leukoplakia development includes appearance of white spot. Similarly, signs of erythroplakia include red spots that are either slightly elevated or flat. They can also bleed when scraped. Both are precancerous meaning they have significant potential of becoming cancerous.
Some of the major symptoms associated with oral cancer are:
One of the major causes of oral cancer is mutations within the cell DNA of the lips or mouth. This DNA comprise of specific instructions for the cells. During mutation, healthy cells die, and mutated cells are instructed to grow and divide. This results in formation of a tumor with accumulation of aberrant cells. The tumor then spreads to other parts of the neck and head. From there, it can also spread to other body parts. Mouth cancer is seen in the thin, flat squamous cells lining our mouth or lips. Majority of the mouth tumor include squamous cell cancers.
Additional Risk Factors
There are four major stages of oral cancer. These are:
Stage I: In this stage the size of the cancer is restricted to two centimeters in diameter. The tumor has not reached any lymph nodes now.
Stage II: In this stage the cancer is around two-four cms in diameter. It is still located in one place in this stage.
Stage III: This stage can be identified with two characteristics. The first characteristics is that the tumor has become bigger than four cms in diameter but has not reached any lymph nodes. The second characteristic is that it can be of any size but has reached at least one lymph node. It is yet to reach other body parts.
Stage IV: In this stage the tumor has grown to any size. It has also surrounded the nearby lymph nodes or tissues. It can also be found in distant body parts including lymph nodes, tissues, and organs.
Diagnosis for oral cancer may include one or many tests and examination. These tests are additional to physical examination as well as tissue biopsy that are essential diagnostic checks.
X-rays: These are used for determining the spread of the cancer cells. X-rays can reveal if the tumor has spread across chest, jaw, or the lungs.
CT Scan: This is used for locating tumors in the throat, mouth, lungs, neck, or other body parts. In general, PET scan is used for location spread across lymph nodes and other organs.
MRI Scan: This scan is conducted for a highly accurate and real image of our neck and head area. This helps evaluate the stage or size of the cancer.
Endoscopy: These include nasal endoscopy, inner-throat endoscopy, sinus endoscopy, trach endoscopy and windpipe endoscopy. They are performed to detect cancer in specific regions.
Treatment for oral cancer is based on various aspects such as location, stage, and type of the skin cancer during diagnosis. Treatment options can be:
Surgery: In this treatment method, malignant tumor or the lymph nodes are removed during preliminary stages. Surgery may also involve removing the healthy tissues surrounding neck and lips. This is done to minimize risk of recurrence.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is an alternative to surgical methods. Radiation beams are directed to the tumor by the doctor. The process is done 1-2 times daily, five days in a week. The process goes for about eight weeks. Radiation therapy along with chemotherapy are often integrated during advanced cancer treatment phases.
Chemotherapy: This is a treatment in which specific drugs are administered to the patient for destroying the cancer cells. The drugs can be administered orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy is usually given to outpatients, yet some may require hospitalization.
Targeted Therapy: This is a specific treatment for oral cancer. Targeted therapy is applicable in both advanced and preliminary stages of the cancer. Targeted therapy uses drugs that bind to particular proteins. These proteins are found on the tumor cells, preventing further growth.
Hygiene and Health: During treatments, it is important to maintain hygiene and health of the mouth. This improves treatment efficiency. Maintain a good oral health, keep your mouth clean and moist. Keep your gums and teeth clean.