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How to Detect Oral Cancer in the Mouth?

Cancerous growths in the mouth or throat are referred to as oral cancer. Oral cancer survival depends heavily on early detection. Learn more about the risk-raising factors.

Oral cancer symptoms

The symptoms of oral cancer include a recurring sore or growth in the mouth. Oral cancer 600 000 new cases are seen each year, including 40 000 in China. 50% of patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong Cancer Registry (HKCR) confirming a 2% increase in new cases each year. The Hong Kong Hospital Authority (HA) database was accessed to identify new cases of oral SCC diagnosed and treated during an 18-year period (January 2000 to December 2017). Results: A total of 6706 oral cavity SCC cases were identified: 4291 male and 2415 female patients (with a mean age of 64.14 years). The tongue was the most commonly affected oral site in 3168 patients, with tonsil (863), buccal mucosa (539) and floor of mouth (409) less common. Cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, sinuses, and pharynx are among the several types of oral cancer (throat). It could be fatal if not found and treated immediately.

Early detection Oral cancer

Early detection makes treating oral cancer considerably simpler for practitioners. But for most patients, the diagnosis is made too late to receive a curative course of action. If you visit your dentist frequently and develop the ability to spot harmful changes, you’ll have a far higher chance of receiving an early diagnosis.

Oral cancer: What is it?

The general name for cancer affecting your mouth’s interior is oral cancer (mouth cancer). Oral cancer can look like a typical illness when it presents as white patches or bleeding sores on your lips or in your mouth. The fact that these changes persist sets probable cancer apart from usual problems. If oral cancer is not treated, it can spread from your mouth and throat to other parts of your head and neck. 63 percent of individuals with oral cavity cancer are still alive five years following their diagnosis.
Who is susceptible to oral cancer?

Throughout total, 11 per 100,000 people will acquire mouth cancer in their lifetime. Oral cancer is more common in men than in women. Oral cancer is more common in white people than in black people.

The following are risk factors for oral cancer development: 

  • Smokers of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes are six times more likely to acquire mouth cancer than non-smokers.
  • People who use snuff, or chewing tobacco products have a 50 times increased likelihood of developing malignancies of the cheek, gum, and lip lining.
  • Oral cancer develops in drinkers about six times more frequently than in non-drinkers.
  • Family history of cancer 
  • Excessive sun exposure, particularly while young. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation can bring on lip cancers.
  • There are etiologic risk factors for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma linked to particular HPV strains. Most people who engage in sexual activity will eventually contract HPV. Growing numbers of apparently healthy men under 50 are developing oral sex-related malignancies in their throats and backs of their mouths due to a particular strain of this virus. 
  • Oral cancers could take years to spread. It is typically discovered after age 55. However, malignancies connected to HPV are developing in more young males.
  • Oral cancer is at least twice as common in men than in women. It might be the case that men smoke and drink more than women.
  • Insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables has been related in studies to oral cancer.

It’s important to keep in mind that almost 25% of cases of oral cancer occur in people who don’t smoke and only occasionally consume alcohol. 

What signs would indicate oral cancer?

Numerous oral cancer signs and symptoms can be confused with everyday dental issues or mouth changes. The following are the most typical signs of oral cancer:

  • Lips, gums, cheeks, or other internal mouth parts that have swellings, thickenings, lumps, crusts, or erosions.
  • Patches in the mouth that are velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red).
  • Unknown cause of mouth bleeding.
  • Any part of the face, lips, or neck that experiences unexplained discomfort, numbness, or tenderness.
  • Persistent mouth, neck, or cheek sores that bleed easily and take longer than two weeks to cure.
  • An ache or the sensation that something is stuck in the back of the throat.
  • Having trouble speaking, moving the jaw or tongue, chewing, or swallowing.
  • Voice change, a chronic painful throat, or hoarseness.
  • An earache.
  • Soreness or swelling in your jaw. Dentures may be painful or challenging to put in if you wear them.
  • A modification to the way your dentures or teeth fit together.
  • Sudden loss of weight.

How is oral cancer identified?

During routine exams, your dentist may detect possible oral cancer. They might order additional tests as a follow-up or suggest that you see a head and neck or oral surgeon. These experts are also known as ENT specialists (ear, nose, and throat) specialists.

Testing for oral cancer may involve:

  • Physical examination: Your dentist will examine your mouth and might also feel around your mouth. Additionally, your head, face, and neck will be checked for any possible pre-cancerous or cancerous growths.
  • Exfoliative cytology, often known as brush biopsy or scrape biopsy: To extract cells that will be analyzed for malignancy, medical professionals gently scrape the affected area using a little brush or spatula.
  • Incisional biopsy: Your doctor will cut small pieces of tissue to obtain cells for cancer testing.
  • Indirect laryngoscopy and pharyngoscopy: Your doctor examines your throat, the base of your tongue, and a portion of your larynx using a small mirror on a long thin handle (voice box).
  • Direct (flexible) pharyngoscopy and laryngoscopy: Using an endoscope, they may look at parts of your throat and mouth that aren’t visible with mirrors. A thin, flexible tube with a light and viewing lens attached is called an endoscope.

Do oral cancers have stages?

Cancer’s stage can be determined with the aid of diagnostic testing. A stage describes where a cancer is and if it has spread or infiltrated the surface of the area where it was discovered. Additionally, tests look to see if cancer has spread to other body parts.

The TNM method is used to stage oral malignancies. T stands for the primary tumour’s size and location. N means that your lymph nodes have been affected by the tumour. The letter M indicates a tumour that has metastasized or spread to other parts of your body.

The stages of cancer of the oral cavity are:

  • TI: Your oral tumour is no larger than 2 mm.
  • T2: The tumour is no greater than 4 cm in diameter and is 2 cm or smaller.
  • T3: The tumour is beyond 4 cm in size.

Treatment options for oral cancer

Treatment for oral cancer varies according to the form, site, and stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis.


Early stage treatment usually includes surgery to remove the tumour and malignant lymph nodes. It’s also possible to remove additional tissue from the lips and neck.

Radiation treatment

Another alternative is radiation therapy. For two to eight weeks, a doctor will direct radiation beams to the tumour once or twice daily, five days weekly. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are frequently used in the treatment of advanced stages.


Cancer is a disease that is treated with chemotherapy. The medicine can be administered orally or through an intravenous (IV) line. Although some patients need to be hospitalized, the majority of patients get chemotherapy as outpatients.

Targeted treatment

Another type of therapy is targeted therapy. Both the early and advanced stages of cancer can benefit from it. Drugs used in targeted therapy will bind to particular proteins on cancer cells and stop the proliferation of the cells.


A crucial component of your treatment for oral cancer is nutrition. Poor appetite and weight loss are frequent side effects of several medications that make it unpleasant or difficult to eat and swallow. Ensure that you discuss your diet with your doctor. Planning a menu that is easy on your tongue and throat while still giving your body the calories, vitamins, and minerals it requires to recover can be made easier by seeking the assistance of a nutritionist.

Maintaining dental health

Finally, maintaining good oral health while receiving cancer therapy is essential to care. Maintain a moist mouth as well as clean teeth and gums.


Medical and dental check-ups are equally crucial. Dentists advise dental check-ups every six months. Depending on your dentist’s advice, it is preferable to visit for a thorough check-up and cleaning every three to four months if you have a history of dental disorders. You can also evaluate yourself. Every month, examine your mouth in the mirror to look for any changes, such as white spots, ulcers, or lumps. If you are one among those at risk, this is very important. 

Call your dentist right away if you see any symptoms. They can then assess whether it is oral cancer or another serious illness. You can get the care you require in either case. Oral cancer is a deadly and life-changing disease. It can, however, be successfully treated if diagnosed early. The best way to smile freely and lead a healthy life is to make an early screening appointment.

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