Dr. Samrat Bordoloi,
Consultant/Department of Pathology,
Anand Diagnostic Laboratory
Oral cancer is among the most prevalent cancers worldwide with males affected more than females. Not surprisingly India stands among the countries with the highest incidence for both the genders. The national data suggest that annually around 130000 people succumb to their deaths due to oral cancer (about 14 deaths per hour). Even though traditionally the disease was associated with older people above the age of 50 years, in the last two decades the younger generation has been increasingly affected by this deadly disease due to increased use of tobacco products. This has become not only a health and economic burden on the country and the people, but also has hindered the growth and progress of our country.
Among the most common causes of Oral cancer, smokeless tobacco products (Ghutkas, pan masalas), cigarettes, betel nut chewing especially cud chewing and severe alcoholism have contributed to the highest number of incidences. Poor oral hygiene including ill-fitting dentures acts as an added risk factor. The low socioeconomic status group becomes the most vulnerable due to the poor access to health services leading to delayed detection and treatment. Even infections like Human papilloma virus infection and syphilis have been related to oral cancers. We in the medical circle refer to the risk factors as the 5 ‘s’ (Smoking, Spirits, Sharp teeth, Spices and Syphilis).
Some of the common symptoms are swellings/rough spots/crusts/eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth which are persistent and do not heal within 2 to 3 weeks, feeling of something caught in the back of the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, persistent sore throat, difficulty in moving the tongue or the jaw and sometimes prolonged pain.
Early detection and treatment are of utmost importance in achieving cure (cancers are curable). In this regard, we should be vigilant towards the appearance of any of the above symptoms and immediately visit a physician. The oral examination is the earliest step towards detection followed by a biopsy and histopathological examination which will help in determining the type and stage of cancer. Once the type and stage of the cancer are established, various treatment modalities are available including surgery and radiotherapy. If detected early, a full cure is absolutely possible with the advancement of the treatment modalities.
As with any disease, prevention is always better than cure. This holds especially true for cancers where a delayed diagnosis invariably leads to a decreased lifespan. Some of the lifestyle and home remedies for self-management are:
- Quit tobacco products (both smokeless and cigarettes).
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Eat a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables.
- A regular visit to a dentist.
Oral cancer is a disease which is preventable as well as curable if detected early. We at Anand Diagnostic Laboratory provide a wide array of tests. These include a well-trained team of Pathologists with experience in Oncopathology and comprehensive tests panels like Immunohistochemistry and Cytogenetics. We also provide with Dental and Physician consultations for a wholesome approach to the problem.
At last, a thorough knowledge of the risk factors and vigilant approach including lifestyle changes will surely help in reducing the disease incidence and usher our country towards a healthier and productive future.