You Should Know
Watch out for the following sign and symptoms of oral cancer. One must be alert for these symptoms as they help in early detection. Oral detection affects any area of the oral cavity including the lips, gum tissue, cheek lining, tongue and the hard or soft palate.
  • It often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or sore anywhere in the mouth.
  • So watch out for patches inside your mouth or on your lips that are white, a mixture of red and white or red.
  • White patches (leukoplakia) are the most common and they sometimes become malignant.
  • Mixed red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia) are more likely than white patches to become malignant.
  • Red patches (erythroplakia) are brightly coloured, smooth areas that often become malignant.
  • A non-healing ulcer --- a sore on your lip or in your mouth that won't heal or bleeds easily.
  • Unusual oral bleeding or epistaxis.
  • Progressive enlargement or swelling.
  • A lump in your neck.
  • Oral Cancer most often occurs in those who use tobacco in any form.

Warning signs include

Early signs and symptoms
  • Colour change of the oral tissues.
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area.
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together or sudden tooth movement without apparent cause.
  • Swelling of your jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
  • Difficulty wearing dentures.
  • Prolonged hoarseness.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.

Late signs and symptoms

  • Indurated area.
  • Parasthesia, dysasthesia of the tongue or lips.
  • Obstruction of airway.
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together.
  • Chronic earache (chronic serous otitis media) / otalgia.
  • Trismus dysphagia.
  • Cervical lymphadenopathy.
  • Persistent pain or referred pain.
  • Altered vision.
Anyone having these symptoms must visit the doctor or dentist so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Most often, these symptoms do not mean cancer. An infection or another problem can cause the same symptoms.
Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is part of a group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity or oropharynx. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and in the floor of the mouth. Almost all oral cancers begin in the flat cells (squamous cells) that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue and lips. These cancers are called squamous cell carcinomas.

When oral cancer spreads (metastasizes), it usually travels through the lymphatic system. Cancer cells that enter the lymphatic system are carried along by lymph, a clear, watery fluid. The cancer cells often appear first in nearby lymph nodes in the neck.

Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the neck, the lungs and other parts of the body. When this happens, the new tumour has the same kind of abnormal cells as the primary tumour. For example, if oral cancer spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells in the lungs are actually oral cancer cells. The disease is metastatic oral cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as oral cancer, not lung cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumour "distant" or metastatic disease.

Early Detection

It is important to find oral cancer as early as possible when it can be treated more successfully. An oral cancer examination can detect early signs of cancer. Oral cancer examination is painless and quick — and takes only a few minutes. Your regular dental check-up is an excellent opportunity to have the exam. During the exam, your dentist or dental hygienist will check your face, neck, lips and entire mouth for possible signs of cancer. Some parts of the pharynx are not visible during an oral cancer exam. Talk to your dentist about whether a specialist should check your pharynx.

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