Oral Cancer

There is a definition which all medical students memorize by their second year, which is an oft-asked question, especially in viva, commonly known as Willis definition of tumour. It states :

  A neoplasm is an abnormal mass of tissue, the growth of which exceeds and is uncoordinated with that of the normal tissues, and persists in the same excessive manner after cessation of the stimulus which evoked the change.

I feel everyone needs to be aware of this definition. In simple layman terms, any extra lump that grows excessively and rapidly should be checked out by a medical professional as early as possible. Most of them might be a simple harmless benign tumour, yet some could turn out to be malignant. Prevention is any day better than cure.

Being a Dentist, I would like to shed light on few facts about Oral Cancer, which is one among the three common cancers prevalent in India. Though commonly seen in the Indian population, there is very low awareness about cancers of oral cavity. It had a male preponderance in its occurrence earlier, now the ratio of occurrence of disease in male to female is 1:1. The common sites of occurrence of Oral Cancer is buccal mucosa, tongue and lips. Lesions on the tongue are usually seen on the lateral border and the mortality rate from cancers of tongue is high.

The most common cause in the Indian population is the use of smokeless tobacco (Gutkha). Gutkha contains tobacco and supari (betel nut), lime etc all of which are carcinogenic and they are placed in the oral cavity for a long time adding to the injury. Use of tobacco with alcohol has a synergistic harmful affect on the tissues. High exposure to UV light increases the chance of developing cancer of the lower lip. Patients who are immunosuppressed have a higher incidence of subsequent cancer development. Inadequate dietary consumption may contribute to risk of OC. Poor oral hygiene,  low awareness, low income are other contributory factors.

Some common symptoms :
•Red, white or mixed patches
•Ulcer that do not heal for more than three weeks, painful, have indurated edges
•Swelling lasting more than three weeks
•Loose tooth with no other obvious reason
•Persistent pain, swollen lymph nodes

Any lesion, tumours, cysts of the oral cavity should be thoroughly checked by a specialist ( ie a dentist who has a Masters degree in Oral and Maxillofacial surgery, Oral Pathology or Oral Medicine) and subsequent treatment should be undertaken immediately.

Awareness is key. Go for routine dental check ups especially people above the age of 40. Maintain good oral hygiene. Oral health is a major contributor to the general health status of a person.

To prevent a disease is far better than to treat Stage III Cancer.

PS : The above are only guidelines and do not diagnose yourself after learning from blogs/Dr. Google. Consult your dentist for further information.

( Linking it to Write Tribe and NaBloPoMo)

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