Everything you need to know about oral cancer

Oral cancer, usually of the head and neck, represents 1 to 3% of all cancers in the body, being more frequent in men than in women and from the age of 40 onwards. This type of cancer is one of the main oncological problems, since it has a high percentage of mortality, complications and side effects in its treatment.

Oral cancer can be extraoral (outside the oral cavity), whose most frequent location is the lip, or intraoral (inside the oral cavity), whose most frequent location is the tongue, especially in the middle and posterior third. Other locations of intraoral cancer can be the anterior part of the tongue, floor of the mouth, gums, palate, vestibule mucosa, retromolar trigone (area behind the wisdom tooth) and jugal mucosa (inner lining of the cheeks).

Etiology of oral cancer

Oral cancer is often associated with habits such as alcohol and tobacco consumption and poor oral hygiene. Recent research also states that human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of 20-25% of oropharyngeal carcinomas.

Symptoms of oral cancer

Lesions are usually asymptomatic for a long time, although they may present initial pain in the precancerous stage. Later, an exophytic (outgrowing) or ulcerative lesion appears, but it is usually painless, so a considerable proportion of patients come to the dentist’s office with a well-developed lesion.

Diagnosis of oral cancer

To diagnose the disease, the entire suspicious lesion should be palpated and a thorough examination of the submandibular, jugular and supraclavicular lymph node chains on both sides should be performed, removing the irritating factor. It is also important to keep in mind that seven to ten days after the examination, if the lesion persists, a biopsy should always be performed.

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Treatment of oral cancer

The treatment of choice is surgical, sometimes complemented with radiotherapy, especially if the excision has not been completed, and chemotherapy, especially in advanced stages. It is important to keep in mind that, at five years, if the oral cancer is in the early stage, that is, it has been diagnosed early, survival is 90%; on the other hand, if the cancer is in an advanced stage, survival is only 20%.