Best Oral Cancer Treatment Hospital In India

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is an uncontrolled growth of cells in any part of the mouth including the floor or roof of the mouth, lips, tongue, gums, or the inside lining of the cheeks. It may start either in the mouth itself or may extend into the mouth from a nearby structure like the nose, or spread (metastasize) to the mouth from a distant site in the body

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Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer. It begins in the flat thin squamous cells lining the lips and the inside of the mouth. The other not so common types include adenocarcinoma (that grows in the salivary glands) or oral malignant melanoma (that begins in melanocytes or cells which provide color to the skin)    

Oral cancer occurs when cells of the mouth develop structural changes (mutations) in their DNA. As a result of these mutations, cancerous cells begin to grow and divide uncontrollably and form a tumor. They may spread inside the mouth, head and neck or other parts of the body. Using too much tobacco, smoking, heavy alcohol use, excessive sun exposure to your lips, sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) or a weakened immune system may increase the risk of oral cancer.

Oral cancer develops in the following stages – 

Stage 0: In this pre-cancer stage, also known as ‘carcinoma in situ’, cancer cells lining the inside of the mouth do not spread anywhere. However, if left untreated it can develop into an invasive cancer.

Stage 1: This is an early stage in which the cancer spreads into deeper tissues below the lining of the mouth, but not to other organs, tissues or lymph nodes.

Stage II: In this stage, the size of the tumor is between 2cm and 4cm, but the cancer does not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.

Stage III: If a tumor of any size has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the neck, or if the tumor is bigger than 4 cm but has not spread to any lymph nodes or any part of the body, the cancer is considered to be in stage III.

Stage IV: This advanced stage of oral cancer is categorized into three stages – stage IVA (cancer grows through tissues around the mouth and lips with or without spreading to lymph nodes), stage IVB (cancer spreads to any lymph node bigger than 6 cm, or to lymph nodes on both neck sides, or to multiple lymph nodes on the same side of the neck), stage IVC (cancer spreads to other organs including liver, lungs etc.)

Patients with oral cancer present with symptoms such as weight loss, rough spots/thickening/swelling on the gums, lips or other areas in the mouth, ear pain, change in voice, hoarseness or sore throat, non-healing sores, numbness, loss of feeling in the mouth, face or neck, difficulty in speaking, swallowing, chewing etc.

When a patient with the above symptoms approaches a doctor, the doctor takes a detailed medical history and examines the patient. The throat and mouth of the patient may be examined using a special flexible instrument called the laryngoscope. After this, the doctor may suggest the following tests –

Biopsy: A small tissue sample from the affected region in the mouth is taken and sent to a laboratory in order to identify whether cancer cells are present or not. A lymph node biopsy may be done sometimes.

X-rays: Lower and upper jaw X-ray or a chest X-ray may be done.

Barium swallow and meal test: In this test, the patient is asked to swallow a drink containing barium and an X-ray is taken, which helps to identify any abnormal growth in the mouth, food pipe or stomach.

Endoscopy: In this test, a narrow, flexible tube with a camera is inserted through the mouth and passed down the patient’s throat, to examine the patient’s digestive tract.

Once diagnosed, oral cancer may be treated by surgical and/or non-surgical methods as follows –

Surgery: In this method, surgery including laser surgery is used to remove the affected cancerous tissue. Along with cancerous tissue, lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed. Depending on the spread of the tumor, a small or large area of the mouth including part of jaw, palate or tongue may be removed. After surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be used to destroy cancer cells that are left behind, or to prevent the cancer from coming back.

Biological therapy: This therapy uses monoclonal antibodies like cetuximab, which block a protein on the surface of cancer cells and prevent their growth.  

Chemotherapy: In this therapy, anti-cancer drugs (injected into a muscle or vein, or given by mouth) are given in alternating cycles of treatments and rest periods to destroy oral cancer cells.

Radiotherapy: In this therapy (also known as ‘radiotherapy’), high-energy gamma rays emitted from the metals like radium are used to destroy or shrink cancer cells that have spread or metastasized, or those that are left behind after cancer surgery. This includes brachytherapy, in which a radioactivity source is implanted in the mouth to destroy cancer cells without damaging nearby tissues.

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