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Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Oral Cancer

Cancer of the oral cavity can be symptomatic in the early stages. The common symptoms are patches (white or red) or ulcers in the mouth or lips. Ulcer in the oral cavity which does not heal, bleeding from the ulcer, difficulty in swallowing and speaking, loosening of teeth and lump in the neck are other common symptoms. All these symptoms prompt immediate consultation with a health care professional. Conformation of cancer is done by a biopsy of the lesion and examination of the cells under a microscope. The cancer, when ignored, has a tendency to spread to the lymph nodes in the neck and in later stages to distant organs such as lungs, bone and liver. X-ray of the jaw bone and chest, computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the head, neck and chest and ultrasound of the abdomen can be done to detect the areas affected by the disease.

Surgical removal is usually preferred and is adequate for most patients with early stages of cancer. The functional and cosmetic results of excision are usually good. Surgery for patients with advanced stage cancer can be technically demanding because the cancer tends to involve vital structures. Depending on the site of the tumour, the surgery may include removal of part of the tongue, lip, jaw bone or cheek bone. The residual defect following surgery is rectified by replacing it with tissue from other parts of the body. These patients also require radiotherapy and chemotherapy to prevent recurrence of cancer. Following treatment rehabilitation of the patient is often necessary to improve chewing, swallowing and speech for which speech therapists are involved. Even though full treatment has been instituted the patient may be at a risk of developing cancer at some other site in their upper aero-digestive system. Therefore, the patient must go for check-ups regularly and inform the doctor if new symptoms develop.

Eliminating the causative agents like tobacco and alcohol is essential to reduce the cases of oral cancer. early detection and treatment will help in improving the chances of survival for patients with oral cancer.

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