Oral Cancer is a disease of the mouth that affects both men and women. Oral cancers may begin at any age, but they are most commonly diagnosed between ages 50-70 years old. In fact, over 90% of oral cancers occur in people older than 40. The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). There are two types of SCC: 1) HPV-associated SCC and 2) non-HPV associated SCC. HPV-associated SCC occurs in the mucosal surfaces of the upper digestive tract including the tongue, gums, lips, and palate. Non-HPV associated SSC occurs in the skin, soft tissues, salivary glands, lymph nodes, bone, and thyroid gland.
Oral Cancer Causes:
1. Tobacco Use
Tobacco use causes many cancers, including oral cancer. Oral cancer is caused by tobacco smoke, chewing tobacco, and snuffing. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), nearly 90 percent of oral cancers occur among people who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. In addition, about 75 percent of oral cancers are linked to alcohol consumption.
2. Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is not only a cause of liver disease, it is also a risk factor for many types of cancer. Research shows that drinking five or more drinks per day increases the risk of oral cancer by more than 50 percent. On average, men drink twice as much as women do, so if you’re male, limit yourself to no more than two drinks per day. If you’re a woman, keep your intake to no more than one drink per day.
3. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer. HPV can infect the mouth, throat, tonsils, tongue, lips, gums, and even the base of the penis. HPV can stay dormant in the body for years before causing any symptoms, and some people never show any signs of having the virus. Most people get HPV naturally during sexual activity, but it can also be passed from mother-to-child during pregnancy. Women should discuss safe sex practices with their partners and visit their doctors regularly to monitor their cervical health.
4. Infection with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a viral infection that affects the skin and mucous membranes. HSV-1 can cause cold sores, fever blisters, and genital herpes. Genital herpes can spread to the eyes, brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and spine. There is currently no cure for HSV-1; however, antiviral medications can relieve the pain associated with the virus.
5. Poor Nutrition
Poor nutrition is another major contributor to oral cancer. Studies show that diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of getting certain types of cancer, including oral cancer.
6. Genetic Factors
Genetic factors play a role in the development of oral cancer. People with family members who have had cancer have a higher chance of developing oral cancer themselves. Family history may also indicate whether someone is at greater risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as oral cancer.
7. Exposure to Irradiation
Exposure to radiation is another contributing factor to the development of oral cancer, especially after head and neck cancer treatments. Radiation therapy uses high doses of X-rays to kill cancer cells. However, these high doses of radiation can damage surrounding healthy tissue.
8. Other Causes
Other causes of oral cancer include exposure to arsenic, nickel, and asbestos, although studies suggest that they don’t contribute significantly to oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Treatment
The following are the most common oral cancer treatment options.
Chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used for oral cancer treatment. It is a type of cancer treatment where drugs are taken orally. Chemotherapeutic agents work by killing cancer cells either directly or indirectly. In some cases, chemotherapy may lead to side effects like nausea, vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea, fatigue, constipation, weight gain, skin reactions, kidney problems, liver damage, heart damage, and many others. There are two types of chemotherapies: alkylating agents and antimetabolites. Alkylating agents are chemicals that interfere with DNA replication and cause mutations. Antimetabolites prevent chemical processes that occur naturally in the body. Most commonly used chemotherapeutics are 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), methotrexate, vincristine, cisplatin, bleomycin, cyclophosphamide, carmustine, and procarbazine. Chemotherapy price is starts from Rs. 4000 in India
2. Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to treat disease. Cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy receive ionizing radiation that affects cancerous cells while leaving normal cells intact. Ionizing radiation damages DNA in the cancer cells, causing them to die off. Radiotherapy uses x-rays, gamma rays, protons, neutrons, electrons, and other forms of radiation. Commonly used radiotherapy methods include brachytherapy, external beam radiotherapy, interstitial brachytherapy, intraoperative radiotherapy, positron emission tomography-guided brachytherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, and image guided radiotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a type of therapy that stimulates the immune system to fight cancer. It works by stimulating the patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is often combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Examples of immunotherapy include monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, vaccines, adoptive T-cell transfer, and natural killer cell activation.
Surgery is the removal of diseased or damaged parts of the human body. Surgical procedures vary depending on what organ is being removed, how much of the organ is removed, and whether the procedure is done laparoscopically or open. Surgeries can be performed to remove tumors, repair organs, reconstruct organs, remove foreign objects, correct birth defects, and perform cosmetic surgeries.
5. Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug therapy is a type of cancer therapy that specifically targets cancer cells without affecting normal cells. Drugs used in targeted drug therapies block specific molecules involved in tumor growth and spread. These molecules include receptors, enzymes, and hormones. Targeted drug therapies include monoclonal antibody therapy, kinase inhibitor therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, angiogenesis inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors, proteasome inhibitors, histone deacetylase inhibitors, hormone receptor antagonists, aromatase inhibitors, topoisomerase I inhibitors, farnesyltransferase inhibitors, and antiangiogenic agents.