What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is the type of cancer that can affect the lips and the entire oral cavity. So not as for example in pharyngeal and esophageal cancer, in which more of the throat and the esophagus are affected.
However, these cancers often mix, which is why they commonly occur together. In oral cancer, the lips, palate, salivary glands, cheeks, gums and even the tongue may be affected by the cancer.
Very often the lower lip is affected. This is the case for almost half of the oral cancer diagnoses in Germany. Incidentally, men are more likely to become ill than women, and according to statistics, oral cancer usually only occurs after the age of 40.
The most common causes of oral cancer are increased tobacco and alcohol consumption. Above all, if you pursue both "vices" or "pleasures" for a long time at the same time, the risk of current studies can multiply enormously.
Extremely endangered are people who chew tobacco. With them, the risk is even 50 times that of later to develop oral cancer. Under certain circumstances, however, absolute non-smokers and people who only seldom or never drink alcohol can develop oral cancer.
The causes can also be an inherited predisposition as well as environmental and health-related burdens that the person concerned is or was exposed to for a long time.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
Depending on where in the mouth a cancer forms, it has a lot of space to expand. Because of this, oral cancer can cause no significant symptoms over a long period of time. The self-examination of the oral cavity, supplemented by the dental check, is of correspondingly great importance.
If there are white or gray spots in the mouth that appear sublime and may even start to bleed when touched, this can be evidence of a cancer in the mouth. In principle, this can settle on any part of the oral mucosa, so you should look at it regularly even once. Also holes in the mucous membrane can represent a pre-stage of a carcinoma.
In general, complaints such as burning in the mouth, stinging pain or incidents such as blood taste in the mouth or even visible blood should be presented to the doctor. In the advanced stage, the oral cancer continues to spread in the oral cavity and often starts to bleed.
The decaying tissue can fester and cause a correspondingly bad taste in the mouth and also strong bad breath. Often one thinks of halitosis but inadequate oral hygiene or stomach problems. Halitosis, however, which occurs despite careful hygiene and repeated over a long period, should be discussed accordingly with the dentist.
Diagnosis & Historyoral cancer
A timely detection and thus diagnosis of oral cancer is unfortunately anything but easy. For this reason, the disease often remains unrecognized too long.
At first, oral cancer presents with minimal sores in the mouth, which accumulate as the disease progresses. However, these often connect with inexplicable pain throughout the mouth and on the lips. This makes chewing, swallowing, and speaking gradually more difficult, painful, and ultimately almost impossible.
In addition, there are often also progressive numbness and swelling. Visible tumors are also diagnosed, but not too often. The situation is different with red and white spots on the gums, which are increasingly being treated as signs of oral cancer.
The oral cancer manifests itself with tumors on the tongue, on the palate or on the jaw and should be detected and treated early. Failure to reach the advanced stage of the disease can result in serious deterioration, including death of the patient. In the advanced stage, the cancer can lead to complications of swallowing and eating, so that those affected can lose weight and dehydrate.
Those who have the oral cancer treated early, has greater chances of recovery. The worsening of the disease is mainly due to older people. The younger the sufferer, the better the chances of recovery. After completing oral cancer treatment, some patients develop new tumors, and younger patients often have a susceptibility to lymph node recurrence.
Although oral cancer usually does not cause any problems in the early stages, complications with the growth of the tumor are steadily increasing. In the course of cancer, there are often disorders in the oral cavity, such as hoarseness, bad breath and dysphagia. Also chest pain and movement disorders of the tongue can be seen as side effects of oral cancer.
When should you go to the doctor?
If there are any swelling in the mouth that occurs after a bite on the lips or tongue, no doctor is needed. The complaints usually resolve within a few days, until they have finally completely regressed.
In case of swelling in the mouth that has not been caused by an accident or injury, a doctor's visit is recommended. A tightness in the mouth, pain or disorders in the comminution of food should be clarified by a doctor. If it comes to bleeding, inflammation or problems with an existing dentures, a check with a doctor is advisable to find the cause of the symptoms. A sudden hypersensitivity to different temperature influences of the ingested food, a weakness of the usual chewing force or a refusal of the food supply indicate a health impairment. A visit to a doctor is necessary because of a disorder.
In severe cases and with a delayed start of treatment, a fatal disease course is possible. For this reason, a doctor's visit should be made at the first irregularities and changes. A blood taste, bad breath and a burning sensation in the mouth are to be presented to a doctor. If it comes to a weight loss, abnormal behavior or disorders in the vocalization, a doctor is needed. Susceptibility to diseases of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat are further signs of health impairment.
Treatment & Therapy
The right point of contact for suspected oral cancer is the treating dentist. He is able to initiate all further procedures for diagnosis and treatment. If oral cancer is detected early, it can usually even more or less gentle and sustainable treatment.
Only in middle to heavy stages does surgery have to be operated, irradiated or used for a more extensive chemotherapy. However, especially in serious cases, the treatment can be difficult - because it is not always possible to remove the affected tissue without hesitation and treat.
That is why it is extremely important to ensure early detection even in the treatment of oral cancer. Heavy smokers, chewing tobacco users and people who drink alcohol more frequently should therefore regularly talk to their dentist about appropriate check-ups.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for oral cancer depends critically on the stage at which a tumor is diagnosed. Basically, finding a disease immediately after onset brings with it the best cure. As problematic proves that a tumor in the mouth is not recognizable from the outside. White spots are not noticed by the patient. They are usually discovered by chance by partners or doctors. This often spills idle time in which treatment could take place. Therefore, many diagnoses are made late.
If the oral cancer forms metastases, the prospects even deteriorate considerably. Scientists determine the 5-year survival rate for metastases on the cervical lymph node to 40 percent. For comparison: Without an expansion of the tumor, about two-thirds of all patients still live after the fifth year.
About 13, 000 people fall ill in Germany every year with oral cancer. Men are more vulnerable than women. Significantly worse chances of a normal lifetime are given to patients who have smoked for years or consumed alcohol. Inadequate oral hygiene and dental care also promote the aggressiveness of the tumor. The prognosis also worsens for old and weakened people.
The diagnosis of oral cancer is best prevented by avoiding excessive and prolonged consumption of alcohol and smoking. Also quite helpful, but not an absolutely safe means of prevention, is increased oral hygiene.
Regular brushing and the use of mouthwashes can reduce the risk of contracting oral cancer - but not completely eliminate it. Above all, nicotine is one of the substances that most promotes oral cancer when smoking.
And: regular check-ups at the treating dentist can not prevent oral cancer per se, but make the treatment by a timely detection much easier, more targeted, promising and gentler.
After the completion of the actual therapeutic measures, the aftercare of oral cancer begins. The primary objective is to prevent a new outbreak of the disease. In addition, the patient should regain the necessary condition for coping with everyday life.
To check the healing process, medical check-ups take place at regular intervals. This procedure gives the doctor the opportunity to recognize and treat possible consequential damage in good time. Likewise, a recurrence of the oral tumor can be diagnosed early.
The follow-up examinations cover a period of five years. In the first two years, they should be carried out at intervals of three months. From the third year, they can take place every six months. In addition to the usual check-ups, regular visits to the dentist make sense.
The oral cancer often leads to impaired speech and swallowing ability. These are treated as part of the aftercare of physiotherapists and speech therapists. If the patient is threatened with a poor diet, the advice of a nutrition expert is recommended. If necessary, this may also be followed by nutritional treatment.
Severe diseases such as oral cancer often have a negative impact on the patient's psyche. In such cases psychosocial care is possible. This occurs, among other things, when the affected person has depression or anxiety.
You can do that yourself
In case of a suspected oral cancer should be discussed with the treating dentist. Together with the physician, a suitable therapy can be developed, through which the cancer can usually be treated gently and sustainably.
In the first stage of the disease, attention must be paid to strict oral hygiene to accompany the medical treatment. Since there is an increased risk of infection, medicinal preparations should be taken to strengthen the oral flora. With the consent of the doctor, you can also try various natural remedies, such as ginseng or arnica. The diet may also have to be changed. For oral cancer, a gentle diet with plenty of raw food and lean, not too spicy meat is recommended. Accompanying this, the consumption of any stimulants must be stopped. Heavy smokers and people who drink alcohol regularly are particularly susceptible to oral cancer. Similarly, people who suffer from a chronic disease of the teeth or gums.
Persons who are aware of these factors should consult a doctor immediately with the symptoms listed. If these measures are followed, oral cancer can be treated well. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the cancer has not yet formed metastases. To ensure this, further physical examinations should take place parallel to the treatment.