Oral Cancer - The Facts

Oral Cancer - The Facts

This oral cancer overview and associated articles will give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating oral cancer - the symptoms, the diagnosis and all the latest options on treatments and therapies - from cancer drugs and chemotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy and complementary therapies; including all the very latest alternative and new therapies and information. We will even cover the causes.

Every year in the UK some 4,400 people contract mouth cancer - a condition that has (according to a Cancer Research UK survey) increased by a quarter in the last decade and kills more people than cervical and testicular cancer combined. It seems to be a predominantly male disease (US figures say six men are diagnosed to every woman).

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Most sufferers are over 40, though an increase in younger people has been tracked in recent years. The big booze culture is thought to be a strong factor. Eminently treatable if caught early, mouth cancer is dangerous because early symptoms (which appear harmless) are easily missed and public awareness is low - so low, in fact, that a recent survey found nearly 33 per cent could not name a single symptom.

Open quotesIt seems to be a predominantly male disease and most sufferers are over 40Close quotes

Its still little known that smoking, or chewing tobacco or betel are implicated in 75 per cent of cases, whilst smokers who also drink a lot have an increased risk factor. A diet poor in fruit and vegetables can increase risk, while a high consumption of these good foods are protective. In younger people there seems to be a viral link, with the HPV (human papilloma virus) strains 16 and 18 involved. In America, somebody dies of oral cancer every hour of the day. In the UK the five year death rate is approximately 50 per cent.

Warning signs of mouth cancer include a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth or on the tongue, an ulcer that is slow to heal, difficulty swallowing or chewing, jaw swelling, unexplained earache, prolonged hoarseness or numbness in the mouth or face regions. Any worrying signs that persist beyond a fortnight should be checked out. The hidden danger of oral cancer is that it can spread with relative speed to the lymph nodes of the neck and can also trigger additional primary tumours. Late detection also raises the risk of disfigurement or losing part of the tongue, as befell John Diamond, the late, journalist, husband of Nigella Lawson, and author of "C - Because Cowards get Cancer too".

Early signs are often picked up during routine dental checks, which makes the decline of NHS dentistry in the UK of particular concern. Further, outpatient hospital investigations for mouth cancer include biopsy, fine needle aspiration and nasoendoscopy. But brush biopsy- a new technique, developed in the States, now offers a swift, cheap, pain-free and non-invasive way of assessing unusual oral spots and pre-cancerous changes, whilst still in the dentists chair.

Open quotesThe treatment for oral cancer may be surgery, radiotherapy, chemo or a combination of these optionsClose quotes

The treatment for oral cancer may be surgery, radiotherapy, chemo or a combination of these options. Small, accessible tumours may be simply removed by lasers and perhaps treated with photodynamic therapy. Micrographic surgery, during which surrounding tissue is tested to ensure complete removal, is also used. More extensive cancers may involve skin or bone grafts to the cheek or jaw, and even prosthetic replacements. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.

Radiotherapy usually follows surgery and may include a made-to-measure face mask to help target the radiation and protect healthy tissue. Chemotherapy of up to six cycles, one every three to four weeks is likely to include Cisplatin and 5-FU, while recurrences are treated with combined Taxotere, Taxol and Gemzar. Synchronous radio and chemotherapy (both treatments at the same time) is sometimes prescribed; doctors hope the future will yield improved success using immunologic response modifiers such as Alpha Interferon and Interleukin.

But prevention will always be better than cure: UK experts say that 75 per cent of oral cancers could be avoided by a healthy lifestyle and diet.

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