Out of all the different types of cancer, oral cancer is the 6th leading cancer worldwide, according to GumDoctor. Gum cancer is one of the oral cancers that cause malignant growths and if not treated may be life threatening. Oral cancer has a higher risk of death than more well known cancers including cervical cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma and skin cancer, reports The Oral Cancer Foundation.
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Smoking cigars, cigarettes or from a pipe is one of the main causes of gum cancer as is smokeless tobacco, including plug, leaf and snuff. Drinking large amounts of alcohol consistently is also a contributing factor to gum cancer.
Usually, oral cancer is not caught until it is all ready at a very severe stage, due to the fact that in most cases there aren't any noticeable symptoms earlier on. It is important that everyone receive their annual check up at the dentist because the primary physician or dentist has the ability to recognise early signs of oral cancer that otherwise would probably go unnoticed until the cancer worsened.
As the gum cancer progresses, symptoms will start to surface. One of the signs of gum cancer is when there is a red or white bump inside the mouth that has been there for over a month, with no signs of disappearing. The other warning sign is when bleeding occurs in the mouth frequently and won't heal properly. When the gum cancer has advanced to a later stage, a person my experience difficulty in chewing food, swallowing, movement of the tongue and jaw. Note that most sores on the gum are a result from gum disease that is easily remedied, not a life threatening condition.
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of the three, are the treatments for gum cancer. Surgery is when the malignant growth is removed. Radiation therapy is narrowed down to maintain and kill the cancerous cells in the affected area, as well as reduce the size of the tumour. Chemotherapy is used to kill off the cancerous cells located throughout the body, not just in the localised, affected area.
In the process of killing the cancerous cells, healthy cells and tissues are also killed off, according to the National Cancer Institute. Surgery will cause swelling in the face that will last for a couple of weeks. Depending on the size of the tumour, if it is large, the surgeon may have to eliminate part of the jaw, palate, tongue or jaw. Noticeable changes in the appearance of the face, ability to chew, speak and swallow may occur as a result of removing a larger tumour from the mouth. There are several side effects of radiation therapy including a dry mouth, tooth decay, soreness of the throat or mouth, sore or bleeding gums, jaw stiffness, altering sense in taste and smell, a change in voice quality and fatigue. Chemotherapy causes nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss and includes the same side effects as radiation therapy.
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