Don’t ignore painless patches in mouth
Don’t Ignore Painless Patches in Mouth, Neck Cancers. Do not ignore painless patches in the mouth. Most of these problems can be detected when you visit a dentist for dental check up and gum problems. Do ask the dentist about the health of the mouth.
Alcohol, tobacco and betel nut addicts are most prone to head and neck cancers and the symptoms often begin as painless patches in mouth
Head and neck cancers occur in lips, mouth, gums, tongue, nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx. One in every three cancers in India is head and neck cancer. Up to 90% of these cancers are mostly seen in lips as it has mucous and is always wet. It also occurs in gums, tongue etc. The cancers that attack brain, gullet, thyroid gland, head muscles and skin are also considered as head & neck cancers. Abuse of alcohol, tobacco and tobacco-related products are the main causes for these cancers.
Human Papiloma virus (HPV) can also be a cause. Nearly 16 to 18 kinds of HPV virus in the front portion of the tongue and some specific kinds in tonsils may also cause these cancers. Symptoms include white and red combination of spots in mouth, sore throat due to throat pain, difficulty in swallowing, inflammation of jaws, loss of hearing ear pain etc; People working in the fields of wood powder, asbestos, metal, textiles and those exposed to radiation are prone to these cancers.
If symptoms are persistent, procedures such as biopsy, MRI, CT, PET can help doctors determine the stage of the cancer.
Depending upon the stage of the cancer, surgery, radiation, chemo, targeted therapy or certain kinds of combination therapies are administered to the patient. Treatments given to delicate parts like head, neck etc may result in changes in face, cause difficulty in chewing, lock jaw etc. Therefore, it is important to approach experienced surgeons for treatment.
The death rate is high in those affected by this cancer either because it is noticed in advanced stage or because of the spread of this cancer to other parts of the body. In our country, of ten lakh cancer victims every year, nearly two lakh people are those who are affected by this cancer. In the US, this number is only 30,000. The high incidence of head and neck cancers in India is also because many Indians retain lime mixture (sunnam) in the mouth for prolonged time, chew betel leaves and nut powder indiscriminately.
A permanent solution for this cancer is possible only when it is noticed in stage one and two. Many times, a reconstruction surgery may be necessary after surgery. Chemo and radiation become necessary for those with stage III and IV cancers. There are modern methods of treatments like 3 dcrt, VMAT, IMRT, Brachi therapy, beam therapy and radio therapy. The role of chemotherapy is less in this cancer. Maintaining oral hygiene, undergoing regular physiotherapy, speech therapy, jaw stretching exercises etc can be of immense use for patients. Patients have to undergo necessary tests once every two to three months in the first two years, once every six months for three years and every year after five years.
Do not ignore painless patches in the mouth. Most of these problems can be detected when you visit a dentist for dental check up and gum problems. Do ask the dentist about the health of the mouth.
(The doctor is MS (Gen), DNB (Surg), Mch (Surg, Onco), FRCS, (Edin) Diploma in lap Surg (France) Chief Surgical Oncologist, Vamsy1964@gmail.com 9848011421)