Oral cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, including the gums and soft tissue, (cheeks), tongue, or larynx (throat).
It is estimated that over 36,000 new cases of various oral cancers were diagnosed in 2010.
Oral cancers affect twice as many men as women; it is the 6th most diagnosed form of cancer in men.
Diagnosis of Mouth Cancer
A patient should see their doctor immediately if they show signs of oral cancer, such as a small lesion, bump, or sore in their mouth, white or red patches of inflamed skin, or persistent hoarseness that persist for more than 2 weeks.
As with most forms of cancer, oral cancer is typically diagnosed using the results of a biopsy. There are 2 forms most often done by doctors:
“Brush biopsy”. This is sometimes done by a dentist because of their familiarity with the inner workings of the mouth and throat. In this procedure, the doctor gathers a cell sample by vigorously brushing the affected area. This is not a stand-alone procedure; if results are positive, a traditional biopsy should also be done.
Traditional biopsy. With this method, the doctor will cut away a small piece of the lump, lesion, or affected area and examine it under a microscope. If the results are abnormal, the doctor will recommend further testing or treatment.
Other tests can also be used to make determine a cancer diagnosis, such as an X-ray, a CT or CAT (co-axial tomography), or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). These tests can only detect the presence of a mass; a biopsy is the most effective tool in confirming an oral cancer diagnosis.
Treatment of Mouth Cancer
Mouth cancer is highly treatable if diagnosed early enough. Most forms of mouth cancers are treated most effectively through a combination of approaches—typically surgery to remove the affected portions of the oral cavity, followed by radiation. Most patients opt for chemotherapy as a follow-up to weaken any remaining malignant cells and prevent them from metastasizing or spreading.