Head & Neck
Cancer occurs when abnormal cells multiply in an uncontrolled way to form a tumour. Benign Tumours grow locally and can damage surrounding structures but tend not to spread distantly. Tumours that can spread around the body (metastasize) are referred to as malignant. Cancer generally refers to a malignant tumour. Cancer can develop in any part of the body – including the mouth.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth. Almost all oral cancers develop from the cells that line the inside of the mouth, called squamous cells. Oral cancers may develop in the floor of the mouth, the palate, the inside of the cheeks, the gums, the lips or the tongue.
What causes oral cancer?
Tobacco and alcohol use are the main risk factors for oral cancer. The combination of tobacco use and drinking further increases oral cancer risk to around 35 times the normal.
Other risk factors for oral cancer may include:
Sometimes, oral cancer can occur in the absence of these risk factors.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
Symptoms of oral cancer may include:
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
Signs of oral cancer may be noted by your dentist during a routine dental examination, or you may have sought medical attention due to symptoms. If so, you will be referred to a specialist for further investigations.
At My ENT Specialist, Dr McGuinness will take a history and perform a thorough physical examination. Endoscopy may be required to see inside the nose, mouth and throat. Endoscopy is a procedure in which the specialist uses a thin flexible tube with a camera and light source at its end to look inside the mouth and throat.
A biopsy, or small tissue sample, may be taken to investigate any suspicious areas. The biopsy is then sent to the laboratory for analysis. Dr McGuinness will discuss the required biopsy technique with you before doing this procedure.
CT, MRI and PET scans may be required to determine the location, stage and spread of the cancer.
What is the treatment for oral cancer?
The treatment and prognosis of oral cancer depends on the nature of the cancer, the size of the tumour, and its spread. When formulating your individual treatment plan, your general health is another important consideration.
Surgery is a common treatment for oral cancer, particularly if the cancer is diagnosed early. The extent of the surgery depends on the size and the spread of the tumour, and may require removal of surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Radiation therapy may be an alternative to surgery in some cases, if the tumour is very small. In other cases, surgery is followed by radiation therapy. For more advanced cancers, radiation may be used in combination with chemotherapy. In certain advanced cases of oral cancer, palliative care is the best available treatment option.
Treatment of oral cancer requires a multidisciplinary team and is individualised for each patient.
At My ENT Specialist, we are proud to form part of a multidisciplinary team that offers exceptional care for oral cancer patients, irrespective of the stage of their illness.