Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, encompasses malignancies that can develop in various parts of the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, hard palate, floor of the mouth, and the retromolar trigone behind the wisdom teeth.
Recognizing the symptoms, understanding risk factors, and exploring preventive measures are crucial for early detection and effective management.
Oral Cancer Stats in Pakistan
Oral cancer is the most common type of cancer in Pakistan, accounting for 30% of all cancers. The National Cancer Registry of Pakistan estimates that there are around 20,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year. The incidence of oral cancer is highest in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, followed by Punjab and Sindh.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the high prevalence of oral cancer in Pakistan. These include:
- Tobacco Use:
Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for oral cancer. Over 50% of the Pakistani population uses tobacco in some form, including smoking, chewing, and using snuff.
- Alcohol Consumption:
Alcohol consumption is another major risk factor for oral cancer. Pakistan has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in South Asia.
- Poor Oral Hygiene:
Poor oral hygiene can lead to the development of gum disease and tooth decay, both of which are risk factors for oral cancer.
Malnutrition can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult to fight off cancer cells.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV):
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can also cause oral cancer. HPV infection is becoming more common in Pakistan.
The early detection and treatment of oral cancer are essential for improving survival rates. However, many people in Pakistan are unaware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and they do not seek medical attention until the disease is at an advanced stage. This is why it is important to raise awareness about oral cancer and to encourage people to get regular dental checkups.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
Detecting oral cancer early relies on recognizing symptoms such as persistent lip or mouth sores, unusual patches inside the mouth, loose teeth, growths or lumps in the mouth and neck, mouth or ear pain, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, chronic bad breath, voice changes, and swelling of the jaw or neck.
Causes and Risk Factors:
Mouth cancers arise from mutations in the DNA of cells in the lips or oral cavity, leading to uncontrolled growth and tumor formation. Most oral cancers begin in the squamous cells lining the lips and mouth.
Several factors elevate the risk of developing oral cancer, including tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure to the lips, HPV infection, a weakened immune system, and a family history of oral cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Diagnostic procedures for oral cancer include biopsy, endoscopy, CT or MRI scans, ultrasonography, and PET/CT scans. These tests help determine the location, size, and extent of the cancer, guiding subsequent treatment decisions.
Treatment options for oral cancer depend on factors such as age, overall health, cancer size and location, and patient preference. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the primary treatment modalities. Surgical options include primary tumor surgery, glossectomy, mandibulectomy, maxillectomy, sentinel lymph node biopsy, neck dissection, and reconstruction surgery. Additional treatments may involve radiation therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
— In simple words, if you feel the symptoms of oral cancer, visit a qualified dentist, as soon as possible.
While there is no foolproof method to prevent mouth cancer, adopting certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk. Quitting tobacco, moderating alcohol consumption, protecting the lips from excessive sun exposure, and regular dental check-ups are essential preventive measures.
- Quitting Tobacco Use:
Smoking and chewing tobacco are two of the biggest risk factors for mouth cancer. If you use tobacco, quit now. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start.
- Drinking Alcohol in Moderation:
Alcohol can irritate the cells in your mouth and make them more susceptible to cancer.
- Protecting Your Lips from the Sun:
Use a sunscreen lip product with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your lips from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Getting Regular Dental Checkups:
Your dentist can check your mouth for signs of oral cancer during your regular dental exams.
Understanding the nuances of mouth cancer, from its causes and symptoms to diagnosis and treatment, empowers individuals to take proactive steps in managing their oral health. By adopting preventive measures and seeking timely medical attention, the impact of oral cancer can be mitigated, leading to better outcomes and an improved quality of life. Regular dental checkups play a crucial role in early detection, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach to oral health.