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Oral Cancer

Cancer in the mouth is like cancer anywhere else in the body. It starts as an uncontrolled growth of cells in the mouth. It leads to disfigurement of the face and debility of the body.

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. It is as common as cancer of the lungs, breast or cervix. As much as 7% of all cancer deaths in males and 4% in females have been reported to be due to oral cancer. This figure continues to rise rapidly due to bad oral habits like chewing tobacco and smoking.

Warning Signs

A white or red patch in the mouth or on the tongue, a painless ulcer which does not heal for over 2 weeks, difficulty in eating, drinking and speaking are some of the early signs of oral cancer. If these symptoms appear you must consult your dentist immediately.

You can either examine yourself for these signs, or you may contact your dentist to do it for you. For self-examination, you will need a mirror and a good light. Look for any swellings, ulcers, and white or red patches.

The two most common conditions that can lead to cancer are:

Leukoplakia - This is a raised white patch seen in the mouth. The most common cause is tobacco chewing or smoking.
Submucous Fibrosis - Inability to open the mouth due to tightening of the cheeks. There is burning sensation when eating any spicy food.  

If detected early, oral cancer is curable. The smaller the ulcer or affliction, the better the chances of cure. Treatment involves surgical removal of the afflicted parts followed by radiation. Chemotherapy is rarely advocated. Cancer of the lips shows 85% cure rate. Other oral cancers, if detected early and treated promptly, may prolong the life of patients by as much as 20 years.

Prevention: Since oral cancer is very common in India, extra precaution is suggested.

  • Avoid bad oral habits like chewing tobacco and smoking. These habits increase your chances of getting oral cancer dramatically.

  • Eat a diet rich in fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and dairy products.

  • Brush twice a day and maintain good oral hygiene.

  • Visit your dentist regularly.


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