Cancer is one of the most fatal diseases ever known to the world. There are number of reasons which are liable for various types of cancer occurring in different portions of the human body. Oral cancer is one such type of cancer. Undesirable growth & multiplication of cells in the mouth area is termed as oral cancer. It can mature in any region of the mouth including lips, jaws, gums, tonsils, cheeks, etc. Mouth cancer is also called as squamous cell carcinoma. Statistics show that around seven billion people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Approximately every five minutes someone is told they have mouth cancer & every year more than 50,000 patients die from the disease. It is absolutely tough to overstate the human tragedy caused by oral cancer.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is also called mouth cancer, is a form of head & neck cancer which affects the mouth. This may initially develop in the form of a lesion in tissue of the mouth or may be seen spreading from a cancerous site through metastasis, such as spreading from the nose region. Oral cancers need to be diagnosed & treated promptly for effective and successful treatment as most cases of oral cancers in earlier stages of their growth can be treated effectively with a wide range of treatment options.
Although it is not known as to what exactly causes oral cancer, doctors have deduced certain factors as given below that increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- Tobacco & Alcohol – Tobacco & alcohol are known to be synergistic in causing throat cancer. Chewing tobacco is well known as an etiologic substance that can cause oral cancer. Smoking tobacco is also known to contribute towards causing oral cancer.
- Dietary Factors – Studies have shown that increased consumption of red meat & processed meats is known to increase the likelihood for causing oral cancer.
- Betel Nut – Chewing of betel nut for a prolonged period of time by a person is likely to increase the risk of squamous cell cancer in the throat region, leading to oral cancer.
- Infections – Certain types of infections are known to contribute towards causing oral cancer, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) that increases the risk of neck squamous cell carcinoma (NSCC).
- Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease – Larynx reflux disease causes stomach acids to flow up in the esophagus (windpipe) & may damage its inner lining.
- Other Causes – Besides alcohol & tobacco consumption, a vitamin-deficient diet along with weak immune system are known to increase chances of developing throat & oral cancer.
Oral cancer can develop due to a number of factors. Following are the most commonly seen signs & symptoms of oral cancer.
- Abnormal swelling, lumps, erosion of lips, gums & other oral parts
- Soft, white & red spots seen growing in the oral cavity
- Bleeding gums
- Tenderness / numbness in the neck & mouth or face region without any identifiable cause
- Sores seen in the mouth, neck & face which are there for more than 2 weeks at a stretch
- Difficulty in swallowing due to feeling of soreness / blockage in the throat region
- Difficulty in using the tongue & jaw without any possible cause
- Prolonged hoarseness or chronic sore throat
- Pain in the ear
- Unexplained loss in weight
In case patients see any of these signs & symptoms it is advisable to consult a cancer specialist, or an oncologist.
Oral cancers are categorized into different types according to their location & the type of cells affected in the mouth of patients. Following are some of the most common types of oral cancer.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – More than 85 percent of cancers that occur in the oropharynx & oral cavity are squamous cell carcinoma. Normally, the mouth & throat are lined with squamous cells, which are flat & placed in a scale-like way. Squamous cell carcinoma generally refers to some abnormal squamous cells.
- Verrucous Carcinoma – About 6 percent of all oral tumors are verrucous carcinoma, which is a kind of slow-growing cancer formed from squamous cells.
- Minor Salivary Gland Carcinomas – They include several types of oral cancers that can develop on the minor salivary glands inside the mouth. These types include mucoepidermoid carcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, & polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.
- Lymphomas – Cancers which develop in lymph tissue is referred to as lymphomas.
- Benign Oral Cavity & Oropharyngeal Tumors – Several kinds of non-cancerous tumors & tumor-like conditions can arise in the oral cavity.These conditions may grow & result into cancer. Various types of benign oral tumors include the following.
- Eosinophilic Granuloma
- Granular Cell Tumor
- Pyogenic granuloma
- Odontogenic Tumors
- Leukoplakia & Erythroplakia – These are non-cancerous conditions which indicate certain types of abnormal cells in the throat or mouth. With erythroplakia, there is a red area, flat or slightly raised & with leukoplakia a white area can be seen that often bleeds when scraped. Both conditions may be precancerous & which can result in oral cancer afterwards.
Oral cancer mostly initiates on the tongue but may also occur on the floor of the gums, mouth, cheek lining & palate along with the lips.
Types of Oral Cancer Treatments
As is the case with most forms of cancer, there are various types of treatments that can used for treatment. But the specific treatment method will depend upon the location & stage of cancer’s progress as well as the patient’s overall health condition & preferences along with the surgeons’ choice. Following are the different types of oral cancer treatments.
There are the different types of cancer surgeries that are categorized according to the purpose of surgery.
- Cancer Removal – This surgery requires the surgeon to remove the tumor directly & also a part of the surrounding healthy tissue. Large tumors require complex & prolonged surgical treatments while smaller tumors can be removed with a minor & short surgery.
- Removing Metastasized Cancer – If cancer has spread to the surrounding regions, the surgeon may be required to remove the affected tissue as well as a part of the surrounding healthy tissue to avoid chances of recurrence and metastasizing (spreading) of cancer.
- Oral Reconstruction Surgery – This is preformed usually after a major cancer surgery of the mouth. The surgeon will advise a reconstructive surgery to restore patient’s natural appearance & functioning as much as possible. Surgeons for this purpose may use skin grafting, muscle grafting & bone implants so as to reconstruct face. Dental implants will be able to help patients replace lost teeth.
Radiotherapy requires focusing high-energy beams on cancerous cells (tumors) to entirely destroy cancerous cells. This is performed either by using a machine (external beam radiation) or by using minimally invasive (as well as non-invasive) methods such as radioactive wires or seeds to perform brachytherapy. Radiotherapy is mostly successful for treatment of oral cancer in its early stages & can also be used as a post-surgical procedure to prevent recurrence of the oral cancer. Radiotherapy is also sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy. This increases effectiveness of Radiotherapy. Radiotherapy also helps relieve painful symptoms of advanced stage oral cancer.
This form of oral cancer treatment uses medicinal drugs which are designed to kill cancerous cells. These drugs may be used individually, or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, or combined with other therapy methods, for added effectiveness.
Targeted drug therapy works by changing certain characteristics of the cancer cells that are responsible for the tumor’s growth. These are also quite often used in combination with radiation therapy & chemotherapy.
Diagnosis of oral cancer is usually performed initially with a dental check-up where the dentist will look for abnormal lumps / bumps including irregular tissue development in the face, neck or head region.
- Sores – Dentists will also look for swathes of discolored skin or tissues as well as sores. The dentist will basically look for any of the visible signs & symptoms as seen in a case of oral cancer.
- Oral Brush Biopsy – In case the dentist identifies an abnormal tissue growth in the neck, head or facial region they will perform an oral brush biopsy. This involves removing a small part of the abnormal tissue & analyzing it to detect nature of cancerous cells.
These are the main diagnostic procedures that doctors might use to identify presence of oral cancer:
- Endoscope – An endoscope is a special tube-like device with a light & a video camera attached to one end. This is used by inserting in patient’s mouth so the doctor can visually identify & take note of any abnormal growths in the mouth.
- Laryngoscope – This is another tube-like device that has a magnifying glass attached & which can help the doctor identify abnormal growth in the vocal cords. This diagnostic procedure is also known as laryngoscopy.
- Biopsy – If the doctor sees any kind of abnormal growth in patient’s mouth they may collect a cut sample of the abnormal tissue to send for a detailed analysis in the pathology laboratory for identification of cancerous cells.
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests are for identifying oral cancer & which include using CT scan, X-ray, MRI, & PET in order to diagnose the extent of spread of oral cancer in patients.
Oncologists will explain to patients what oral cancer treatment involves & what to expect during the operation.
- Hole in Neck – If oncologists are going to make a hole into patient’s neck, they will explain exactly what the procedure involves. They will also explain the risk factors to patients prior to surgery.
- Speech Problem – When patient’s oral cancer treatment causes problem with speech, a speech therapist will explain to them about how they can communicate with ease afterwards.
- Counseling – Oncologists & the medical team may meet patients when they arrive at the hospital for oral cancer operation. They will ask if patients have any queries related to the operation.
Preparation before oral cancer operation will vary slightly depending upon the type of procedure & oncologist’s experience.
It may help the patient to make a list of questions before they go into the hospital to undergo oral cancer surgery. There are certain suggestions for patients given below.The more a patient knows about what is going to happen during the operation, the less frightening situation it will seem.
- What type of procedure do you recommend for me?
- Do I require any lymph nodes removed?
- How does it feel after the operation?
- Will I have problem swallowing, speaking or eating?
- Where will the wounds & scars be? What will they appear like?
- Does this procedure have any long-term effects?
- Will I need to visit a speech-specialist after my operation for help with my speech?
- When can I return back to my routine activities?
- How often will I require health check-ups in future?
- How will my face & mouth look afterwards?
- Do I have to follow any special diet? For how long?
- What are the expected results of my oral cancer treatment?
- What are the risks & possible complications of my oral cancer treatment?
- What can I do to avoid any complications prior, during & after my surgery?
Patients should speak to oncologists freely regarding oral cancer treatment. When all queries are answered, surgeons will ask the patient to sign a form saying that they agree to undergo oral cancer surgery. Remember that no treatment can be done without the patient’s consent.
Follow-up care after oral cancer treatment is extremely necessary. Even when the dreadful mouth cancer seems to have been completely destroyed or removed, the disease sometimes re-appears due to undetected cancerous cells remaining in the patient’s body after treatment. Oncologists precisely monitor patient’s recovery & skillfully check for recurrence of mouth cancer. Checkups aid in ensuring that any minor or major changes in patient’s health are noted. Oncologists will probably encourage patients to inspect their mouth at regular intervals & continue to have evaluations when they visit a dentist. It is absolutely important for patients to report any changes in mouth right away. Checkups include a complete evaluation of the neck, mouth & throat of the patient. From time to time, patients may be advised to do a complete health exam including blood tests & x-rays. Patients who use tobacco or drink alcohol heavily are always under risk of developing oral cancer again. Oncologists strongly urge patients to quit using tobacco & avoid heavy drinking to cut down risk of oral cancer & other health issues.
Oral cancer & its treatments can cause a number of severe complications, including significant changes to the appearance of mouth, trouble swallowing (dysphagia) & extreme communication problems. These after-effects of oral cancer treatment can cause emotional trauma to patients & withdrawal from normal life.
- Dysphagia – Language or speech therapists will evaluate patient’s swallowing reflex with help of a test known as video-fluoroscopy. This test comprises swallowing liquid & food in which a special dye has been added & simultaneously an X-ray is taken. The result of this test is evaluated by doctors & if there is any risk, patients may be required to use a feeding tube for a specific span of time.
- Speech – Like swallowing food, patient’s ability to speak fluently involves a complex interaction of bones, tissues & muscles including their teeth, tongue & lips. Patient’s speech may sometimes get severely affected after oral cancer treatment.
- Emotional Impact – Emotional impact of living with oral cancer treatment can be significant. Many patients experience a state of depression after surgery. However, huge number of effective solutions are available for depression, including antidepressants & therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy.
Normally, patients who undergo treatment for oral cancer are not able to live life fully as they used to when they were absolutely normal. Oral cancer surgery involves the tongue, jaw, tongue, lips, mouth & throat & may also change the way patients’ facial appearance. But modern surgical treatment methods & reconstructive surgery are very good these days. They tend not to cause severe scarring, even with extremely complicated operations. Patients should surround themselves in a positive environment & they should try to socialize as much as possible with their dear friends & family. If they overcome this emotional trauma, they will likely be able to enjoy a new life. Strong will-power can help them live life more efficiently.
Medical Tourism in India for Oral Cancer Treatments
Oncologists in India are well-experienced & are extensively-trained in the most advanced cancer treatment methods. Their efficiency is enhanced further with the largest network of world-class hospitals & clinics that are equipped with the most advanced & latest medical & surgical technology. Along with the lowest cost of treatment of oral cancer in India, Travcure makes it the choicest destination for thousands of international patients who come here for effective & affordable treatment every year for their medical problems.
Affordable Oral Cancer Treatments with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure is globally reputed as the leading & most efficiently affordable medical tourism service provider in India. Expert team at Travcure Medical Tourism has vast experience in managing all types of cancer patients, from early stages to the more advanced stages. Dedicated team of consultants at Travcure is well-versed in handling international patients’ each & every requirement. Travcure puts the patient’s preference & well-being above all, as a result of which hundreds of international patients have gone home much satisfied with the hospitality & comfort provided by Travcure Medical Tourism consultants.
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