Gum cancer is a type of oral cancer that affects millions of people each year. The possibility of getting gum cancer is increased dramatically in those who smoke, those who chew tobacco and those who don't take care of their oral health with regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups.
Gum Cancer Defined
Gum cancer can happen to anyone, although your risk is higher when you smoke, chew tobacco or use poor hygiene. Gum cancer is cancer of the soft tissue surrounding the teeth and bones of the jaw that hold the teeth. When there is any type of cancer to this soft tissue, it is referred to either as gum cancer, gingival cancer or oral cancer.
When it comes to the symptoms of gum cancer, there are two types that you need to be aware of. The first type of symptoms are the ones you might notice yourself. You will be able to feel them or see them. The second type are the symptoms only your doctor or dentist might be able to detect.
The first type includes symptoms such as pain in your gum area, swelling of your gums (which is also a symptom of gingivitis), a mass on your gum that you can either feel or see, a gum ulceration and gum bleeding (which is also a sign of gingivitis).
The symptoms your doctor would have to notice include an ulcer that hasn't healed properly, a lump in the oral cavity that has become larger rather than smaller, red, white or dark areas on the gum, and an abnormal texture to the gums that may cause loose teeth or the movement of teeth.
Diagnosis of Gum Cancer
The diagnosis of gum cancer would be made after there has been a thorough examination by a dentist or oral specialist with blood tests, X-rays, a biopsy of the edge of an ulcer or lesion, a complete dental history workup and a health profile, which would include medical history, family medical history and eating, drinking, smoking and dental care habits. If the doctor thinks it necessary, you may also be given an MRI.
Treatment of Gum Cancer
If you are diagnosed with an early stage of gum cancer, you may be able to take care of it using one of three methods. Surgery is an option that might involve removing some or all of your teeth, as well as the section that has cancer growth. Radiation is another treatment option for early stages of gum cancer. The other option of treatment is chemotherapy. There is also the option of combining either radiation and surgery or chemotherapy and surgery. As with any cancer, the earlier it is detected and diagnosed, the better the prognosis and greater the possibility of successfully having less aggressive cancer treatment.
Possible Complications of Gum Cancer
If gum cancer is caught early, there is very little chance of the damage that can result from later stages. Usually it can be easily treated and taken control of. There are occasionally complications from even the early stages of gum cancer. Depending on where the cancer was located and how widespread it was, there may be problems with saliva, taste, future oral infections and sometimes problems with speech.
Prognosis: After Gum Cancer
Gum cancer caught in the early stages has a good prognosis. Oral cancer is slower at spreading and growing than some other types of cancer. It has a five-year survival rate of almost 70 per cent if the cancer hasn't reached the lymph nodes.
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