Sores in the mouth can sometimes develop and can be really worrisome, for the greatest fear associated with their presence is that they may lead to mouth cancer. But what are the usual symptoms of mouth cancer?
The sores that occur in the mouth from time to time often are the result of irritation or viruses; they often heal uneventfully and pass out of notice. However, other types of change in the tissues and cells of the mouth tend to persist; these may later develop into mouth cancer. Identifying such precancerous mouth sores early on, therefore, is important as it may be possible to get rid of their cause before they develop into mouth cancer. Some of the primary causes of precancerous mouth sores include excessive smoking, immoderate use of alcohol, or an irritation to the mouth lining.
Among the early symptoms of mouth cancer, five are mentioned here: a lump or raised growth; a painful spot or lingering numb; the development of white or velvety-red patches; a sore or ulcer that won’t heal; and persistent bleeding. While the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have or will have mouth cancer, such changes or abnormalities in the mouth should be examined by a physician without delay.
As soon as the presence of any of the symptoms of mouth cancer has been determined, the physician will want to look at it more closely by means of removing and examining mouth tissues or cells (biopsy); if the tissues or cells examined do show precancerous changes, he will suggest appropriate treatment.
The two primary types of treatment for mouth cancer are surgery and radiotherapy, with both types often used in combination. The choice as to which of the types of treatment for mouth cancer should be used depends on the location, size and extent of the condition. For example, inasmuch as lymph nodes in the neck area may have collected cells from the original cells, radiation or surgery may have to be performed on these glands.
Another one of the types of treatment for mouth cancer is chemotherapy, which is usually used together with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is also used when radiotherapy alone has failed. However, chemotherapy cannot cure mouth cancer; it may only shrink the tumors.
As for mouth surgery, this treatment method can be impairing and may result to other problems, too. An example is the possible alteration of the shape of the face of a patient after an extensive mouth surgery, in which large amounts of tissue are cut out. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the patient will be left permanently disfigured. Surgeons, using artificial substances or skin and bone removed from other parts of the patient’s body, can reconstruct facial features with remarkable results.
1. Bupa health factsheet, “Mouth cancer – symptoms, causes and treatment” – http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/mouth_cancer.html
2. Cancer Research UK, “Treatment options for mouth cancer” – http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=13119
3. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, “Cancerous Growths” – http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec08/ch113/ch113d.html