Oral cancer is solely responsible for the highest number of cancer deaths in India in comparison to any other country in the world. Globally, India constitutes 1/3rd of the cancer in head and neck region, particularly, mouth, tongue, pharynx, and larynx region. In India and rest of the sub-continent i.e. in Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is gradually growing over the last few years. By the year 2020, oral cancer alone i.e. cancer of tongue, lip, cheek will constitute at least 30% of whole of cancer incidences worldwide. When taken in totality, the frequency of oral cancer, head and neck cancer that include mouth, larynx and pharynx might altogether supersede lung cancer. Till now occurrence of lung cancer is more than head and neck cancer. In fact, lung cancer is the commonest of all cancers, with high mortality rate. From year 2015 to 2017, the incidence of lung cancer has stricken India just over one lac cases, whereas oral cancer is only touching ninety-nine thousand to one lakh.
Major cause of oral cancer is attributed to usage of tobacco. Smoking tobacco causes more lung cancer while chewable tobacco causes more of cancer. High consumption of smokeless tobacco like gutka, khaini, processed pan masala with tobacco etc. among people from lower economic strata make them easy victims of oral cancer. Excessive alcohol intake also adds to oral cancer woe. While lung cancer comes first when it comes to high incidence rate, however, oral cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer are also not far behind. Dr. Sujoy Mukherjee, Consultant, CK Birla Hospital – CMRI says, “When a complaint of any oral lesion lasts for 2-4 weeks, the patient must go for a thorough physical examination. Early diagnosis promptly aids an appropriate specialist to give a definitive treatment to the patient.”
With increase in awareness for breast cancer, it has become easier for educated women to self-examine their symptoms and go for mammograms which lead to early detection, thus saving more patients. However, in case of oral cancer, it is detected much later since the early symptoms are benign, that patients usually ignore ensuing dip in prognosis. Dr. Mukherjee adds, “Early detection of tumour size 1 has very good rate of survival in 5 years, nearly 60 – 70 % with no positive result of neck node. But when one of the glands in the neck node becomes positive or inflated the prognosis drops from 70% to less than 30%, and the size also increases. It is essential to spread awareness that oral cancer is highly treatable with early diagnosis and quick treatment. Regular preventive examination is a must in order to identify any abnormal growth or lesion.”
Larynx and pharynx are also manifested with high occurrence of cancerous growth and it mostly occurs due to smoking. Head and neck cancer comprise oral, oropharynx, pharynx, larynx and also around sinus. Recently the age group consisting youngsters and adults between 25 to 32 are getting affected rampantly due to their unhealthy lifestyle. Although, the most affected age group remains between 20– 60 years. Once detected and treated properly, chance of getting secondary oral cavity cancer is very rare.
According to Dr. Sujoy Mukherjee, Consultant, CK Birla Hospital – CMRI, the following measures should be kept in mind in order to prevent yourself from Oral Cancer:
– Educate people for not using chewable tobacco like pan parag, pan masala, gutka, betel, areca nuts etc. Show them pictures to demonstrate what can be the consequence.
– Eliminate smoking and alcohol consumption from your lifestyle
– If there is any lesion in your mouth for more than three weeks and it is not healing, then go for an immediate biopsy
– Opt for regular oral screening as a preventive measure
– Follow a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals which increases antioxidants thereby helping in fighting cancer
– Always maintain a good oral hygiene
Authored by Dr. Sujoy Mukherjee , Consultant, CK Birla Hospital- CMRI