The most common cause of oral cancer is tobacco use, chewing tobacco being a more common cause than smoking, but both can lead to it. Interestingly, smoking pipes and cigars leads to more oral cancer than cigarettes, statistically speaking, presumably due to how deeply the smoke is inhaled. Excessive alcohol consumption also leads to a higher risk of oral cancer and is considered the second highest risk factor. The best prevention for oral cancer is to not use tobacco and to only use alcohol in moderation.
Signs and Common Areas to find Oral Cancer
The most common site for oral cancer is on the back of the tongue to one side or the other. Chewing tobacco users will commonly develop lesions in their cheeks where they hold their tobacco, but it is possible to develop lesions anywhere in the mouth. A malignant lesion normally looks white or red and often appears ulcerated, but generally has little or no pain. Skeletal cancer will exhibit atypical bony changes on a radiograph.
Oral Cancer Screening
Screening is done by the doctor at each of the patients normal cleaning recall appointment. At each recall and during a patient’s initial comprehensive examination, the examining dentist will check the soft tissue of the mouth and tongue for any atypical lesions. Also, radiographic x-rays are taken periodically to also check for any skeletal abnormalities.
Treating Oral Cancer
Oral cancer most commonly needs surgical intervention for treatment and depending on the extent and type of cancer, this surgery may involve the removal of only soft tissue like the tongue or cheek, or removal of hard tissue as well such as the jaw bone. Other treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy depends on the type and progression of the disease.