Oral cancer occurs when the cells in the mouth begin to grow and divide at an abnormal rate. DNA is the information house in a cell that commands the functioning of a cell. When DNA starts to malfunction, the cells grow and divide irrationally.
The most common area for oral cancer is on or around the lips, although they may even occur anywhere inside the mouth and spread deep inside. Although doctors have still not been able to find out what causes DNA to malfunction in the first place, there are certain factors that have been identified which contribute to oral cancer- here they are:
Causes of oral cancer
- Smoking and drinking: There is a reason why every packet of cigarette comes with a caution for cancer these days. For decades, tobacco has been linked to cancer. Although tobacco may cause cancer in any part of the body, oral cancer, throat cancer, and lung cancer are the most common types of cancer associated with it. Even smokeless tobacco, such as the habit of chewing tobacco can lead to oral cancer.
The same goes for drinking as well. According to an article by WebMD, oral cancer is 6 times more common in drinkers than in non-drinkers.
- HPV: HPV or human papillomavirus is a deadly virus that is known to cause cancer. It is sexually transmitted and the first signs may involve eruption of warts in different body parts.
- Excessive exposure to sunlight: Sunlight has UV rays, which are known to damage cells and cause cancer. Although the ozone layer does filter this out, a small harmless amount of it does remain. This harmless amount could be harmful if your face is exposed to the sunlight excessively.
- Weak immunity system: Having a weak immune system can also give way to oral cancer or other types of cancers since your body does not have the capability to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
- Genetics: Scientists suggest that a family history of cancer can also lead to any type of cancer in a person.
Although there are plenty of other causes, the ones listed above are the most common ones.
Symptoms of oral cancer
- A lump in your mouth or lips
- A sore mouth or throat
- Mild to high fever that keeps recurring
- Bleeding from your gums or other parts in your mouth
- Difficulties in swallowing food
- Drastic weight loss
- Pain in either or both of the ears
- Stiff and sore jaw
- Visible white patches in the mouth
- A hoarse voice
There are a countless number of symptoms of oral cancer, of which, the ones listed above are the most common.
Oral cancer is usually not as fatal as other types of cancers if they could be detected at an early stage, and hence, you must immediately seek medical consultation if you suspect oral cancer. As per The Oral Cancer Foundation,
“When found at early stages of development, oral cancers can have an 80 to 90 % survival rate. Unfortunately at this time, the majority are found as late stage cancers, and this accounts for the very high death rate of about 43% at five years from diagnosis (for all stages and etiologies combined at time of diagnosis), and high treatment-related morbidity in survivors.”
Thus, if you do have a single symptom that points towards oral cancer, get an oral cancer screening, now!