Oral cancer is a condition that occurs when the cells inside of the mouth grow and divide at an abnormal rate. It can affect anyone of any age, but it most often occurs in men who are over the age of 40. Oral cancer can be fatal if it is left untreated, but fortunately, a person’s chances of survival will be much greater if he or she is diagnosed and treated early. In fact, if the cancer is diagnosed and treated before it spreads to other parts of the body, then the survival rate is around 90 percent.
The key to getting the proper treatment is to recognize the signs and symptoms. A sore, ulcer or lump in the mouth is one of the first symptoms of oral cancer. It is usually pale-colored, but it can be discolored or dark. This sore, ulcer or lump can develop on any area of the mouth. Sores, lumps or ulcers are usually painless, but a person may experience pain as the cancer progresses.
There are several other symptoms that may be present in a person who has been affected with oral cancer. Some of those symptoms include painful swallowing, chewing problems, swollen lymph nodes, speech difficulties and weight loss. Additionally, poorly-fitting dentures could be an indication of this condition.
It is important to note that the symptoms of oral cancer can mimic many other health conditions. For that reason, patients will need to see a doctor or dentist if the symptoms last for more than two weeks. A doctor or dentist can order a tongue or gum biopsy in order to diagnose oral cancer. A doctor may also order CT scans and X-rays in order to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
If the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, then the doctor may recommend surgery. The doctor may also have to perform surgery to reconstruct the mouth. Radiation treatment may be recommended if the cancer has spread. Radiation treatment may also be performed after surgery in order to prevent the cancer from returning. Chemotherapy is often used along with radiation treatment. Additionally, Cetuximab is a medication that can be used to treat oral cancer.