Every year, March 20 is observed as World Oral Health Day. Apart from other aims, the day seeks to remind people about the threat posed by oral cavity cancer and the precautions to be taken to prevent the disease. This type of cancer affects nine areas, including the tongue, lips, root of teeth, gums and the region from the upper part of the mouth to the throat. Compared to other cancers, patients of oral cancer have a better chance of recovery by treatment.
Oral cancer is caused by smoking, drinking, use of betel leaves, lime for chewing, tobacco products, eating excessively hot and spicy food and hot climate, among other reasons. Ulcers in the mouth that do not heal, cuts on lips and tongue caused by the teeth (dental ulcers) etc. can also later lead to oral cancer.
Take care if you have a bad breath
Consult a dentist and take measures to prevent oral cancer if you face conditions such as bad breath, white patches inside the mouth (leucoplakia), red patches (erithroplakia), uneasiness caused by use of addictive substances, ulcers in the mouth, bleeding in the mouth and from between the teeth, difficulty in swallowing food, pain in the area near the ears, swelling on the neck, difficulty in speaking and bleeding from the nose.
For instance, when the lips get regularly cut by the teeth and the ulcers do not heal, it could lead to oral cancer. But by consulting a dentist as soon as the cuts are noticed, cancer can be prevented as the dentist would be able to realign the teeth that cause injuries to the lips.
Things to note
» During treatment, ensure that the disease does not spread to other areas
» Avoid all addictive substances
» Take care while chewing and having food
» Always keep the mouth clean
» Increase the intake of food items like drumstick leaves, spinach and other leaves, cabbage, carrot, guava and similar fruits and vegetables
» Reduce the intake of meat to the minimum
Prevention is rather easy
Only a very small number of people develop oral cancer owing to genetic causes. If a person diligently follows the points listed above, oral cavity cancer can be prevented.
Need not worry
» Early detection and treatment offers a high chance of recovery from oral cancer, like all other cancers.
» Treatment is done by three methods – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy
» Patients undergoing surgery are often worried over change of their facial features. However, plastic surgery offers them a solution.
» Earlier, radiation had side-effects like production of less saliva, dryness in the mouth and damage to the salivary glands. However, modern radiation equipment are now available which avoid such problems. Moreover, they ensure that radiation does not affect other areas.
» Chemotherapy is resorted to when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body through blood.
» At present, there are solutions to side-effects like vomiting, hair loss and other damages which earlier used to cause anxiety among patients. Modern equipment and drugs to treat the side-effects are now available.
(Information provided by Dr Sreekumar Pillai, Head of Oncology and Surgical Oncology Department, Jubilee Mission Medical College and Research Institute, Thrissur)