Mouth Cancer

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Also called oral cancer, mouth cancer is most often located on the lips or the tongue. The other parts of the mouth could become infected also, such as soft tissue on the gums, roof or bottom of the mouth, and the inside of a person’s cheek. The cancer can easily spread to other tissue and lymph nodes in the neck if not properly treated. About one-fourth of all cases end in death because of delays in diagnosis or treatment, so it is important to report any suspicious lumps in your mouth to your doctor or dentist.

Symptoms and Causes of Mouth Cancer

The most prominent symptom is a lesion or lump in the mouth. It usually starts out small and painless, can be pale in color or dark, and sometimes has a hard edge or crack in the tissue. Depending on the location of the cancer, there may be trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing. An abnormal taste in the mouth may also be present.

Upwards of 80% of mouth cancers are caused by the use of tobacco, whether in chewing or smoking form. Continued irritation of the soft tissue in the mouth usually leads to the development of the cancerous cells. Rough teeth, dentures, and heavy alcohol abuse are also linked to oral cancer.

Mouth Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

A diagnosis is usually made upon examination by a doctor or dentist. As with most cancers, diagnosis is not made until cancerous cells are confirmed by a pathologist, who will review cells from a biopsy under a microscope. Routine dental examinations may catch its early presence, so good dental hygiene will reduce your risk factor.

Activities such as chewing tobacco, smoking, and drinking heavily should be stopped, and treatment will depend on the severity of the case. Radiation is usually preferred over surgery, unless the lesion is in its early and small stage. Mouth cancer that has spread into nearby neck lymph nodes will need more aggressive treatment options, and surgical removal of parts of the face may be recommended.