World Head and Neck Cancer Day: How to look for early signs of mouth cancer; know self-examination tips

Published on Jul 27, 2022 06:55 PM IST

World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2022: The day is observed annually to create awareness on cancers of head and neck. Here's how to do self-examination of your mouth to look for early signs of cancer.

World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2022: All you want to know(Shutterstock)
World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2022: All you want to know(Shutterstock)
By, Delhi

World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2022: World Head and Neck Cancer is observed annually on July 27 to create awareness on cancers of head and neck. Head and neck cancers is a broad term used for cancers of mouth (oral cavity), tongue, cheek, thyroid, parotid, tonsil, Larynx (voice box). They are one of the most common malignancies in India. If detected in early stages, majority of head and neck cancers can be cured completely. Just like in breast cancer, many high-risk individuals can detect mouth cancer in its early stages by doing self-examination. Here's all you want to know about the head and neck cancers and how to do self-examination of your mouth to look signs of cancer. (Also read: Oral cancer patients with less circulating tumour cells live longer than those with more: Study)

"Diagnosing oral cancer early is extremely helpful as it can drastically improve patient outcomes. In most cases, oral cancer patients generally have precancerous lesions, also known as Oral Potentially Malignant Disorder (OPMD). When such cases are reported, a proper diagnosis and treatment plan must be created to stop cancer progression. Further, OPMD is generally more common in patients who use tobacco quid," says Dr Hitesh R Singhavi, Consultant, Head and Neck Surgeon, Fortis Hospital Mulund.

Causes of head and neck cancers

Tobacco chewing, smoking, alcohol and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection are some of the common causes. Most of these are lifestyle factors and thus preventable. Getting rid of addiction and self control can protect people from these deadly cancers.

"Tobacco free society can be achieved with aggressive awareness community programs. we need to educate and motivate the teenagers to stay away from tobacco. HPV Vaccination to both boys and girls help in prevention of virus related cancers," says Dr Prateek Varshney- Director & Unit Head - Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh.

Detecting early oral cancer signs

Here are some easy steps to do self-mouth examination that anyone can try at home:

- Look and feel inside your lips and the front of your gums

- Tilt you head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth

- Pull your cheeks out to inspect it and gums in the back

- Pull out your tongue and look at its top and bottom

- Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in both sides of your neck, including under the lower jaw.

"While checking your mouth, inspect and feel for any lumps, red or white patches, changes in colour or texture, lingering ulcers, or anything unusual. If you notice anything, you must consult a specialist at the earliest opportunity," says Dr Singhavi.

Dr Singhavi advises to pay attention to any of these early signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.

- A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch inside the mouth, lip, or throat

- White or red patch that is present in the mouth

- Sore throat that does not go away even after taking medicines

- Difficulty while chewing, swallowing, or speaking

- Constant trouble while moving the jaw or tongue

- Swelling of the jaw can even affect the placement of the dentures

- Numbness that is present in the tongue or other areas of the mouth

- Ear pain

Screening helps to detect such cancers in early stage. Any non-healing ulcer in mouth, hoarseness of voice, difficulty in swallowing, lump or swelling over face or neck may be a sign of malignancy and should be evaluated.

"Evaluation in case of such symptoms should be done by an oncologist. Confirmation of diagnosis of cancer needs a biopsy from the ulcer or the swelling. Imaging like ultrasonography, CT/MRI and PET CT scan are advised accordingly for staging," says Dr Prateek Varshney.

Treatment

"In early stages such cancers can be cured completely by surgical removal with good cosmetic and functional outcomes. In advanced stages usually combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy is required. A lot of advancement has been done in all these fields to reduce their side effects.

Minimal invasive surgical techniques used for such cancers give very good results and early recovery," concludes Dr Varshney.

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