Gum cancer, also known as mouth cancer is not that easy to detect. Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of the disease can be mistaken for other dental problems. Oral cavity, mouth pain, and weight loss are just some of the early signs of gum cancer. Cancer may take place in any part of our mouth, so be sure to get checked up by your periodontist from time to time for early treatment.
What You Need To Know
Oral cancer can pop up in any part of the mouth, that includes the inside cheek and the gums. It is also categorized as a particular type of head and neck cancer. Oftentimes, it falls under the oral and oropharyngeal cancer categories. Mouth cancer typically occurs in the following places:
- Under the tongue
- The roof of the mouth
- Inner cheeks
If cancer takes place inside the mouth, it is often called oral cavity cancer. Since gum cancer falls under the head and neck cancer category, their treatments are quite the same.
Early Signs Of Gum Cancer
It might be time to give your dentist a call if the following signs persist:
- Mouth pain that does not go away
- Persistent mouth sores
- Bad breath
- Neck lump
- Sudden weight loss
- Changes in the voice
- Loose teeth
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing food
- Patches in the gums, tonsil, or anywhere in the mouth
- Cheek lump
- Jaw pain
- Numbness in the tongue area
- Trouble making jaw movements
- Bleeding in any part of the mouth
- Dentures falling off
If these early signs persist for several days or weeks, give your dental clinic a visit immediately. Your dentist will be able to determine where cancer occurs and you might still be able to be saved from irreversible damages.
Doctors use different kinds of tests and examinations to diagnose a certain dental condition. In order to determine if you are in fact suffering from mouth cancer, your dentist might use any of the following diagnostic procedures:
The most basic part of any dental check-up is the physical exam. In this procedure, the dentist will try to determine the location of the mouth cancer. Most of the time, dentists diagnose oral cavity cancer with a simple physical exam. During this procedure, the dentist will ask about your signs and symptoms, your medical history will also be checked to see if you had symptoms from before.
With the help of an endoscope, a tube attached to a light, and a small lens, your dentist will check the inside of your mouth up to your throat. The device will be inserted into your nose to examine certain areas to see other signs of cancer. Endoscopy can become quite uncomfortable and painful, that is why general anesthesia is often used to help the patient.
The other way to diagnose gum cancer and other mouth diseases is through biopsy. This diagnostic procedure involves the extraction of tissue from the patient which will be examined through a microscope. Biopsy gives specific outputs and is often more reliable than other tests.
Oral brush biopsy
One of the most advanced ways to diagnose mouth and gum cancer is by collecting cell samples from the mouth with a brush. The collected cells will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. This can be done in a dental office and the results often take a day or two to be revealed.
X-rays are typically used to diagnose several dental problems. It is also used to analyze the severity of tooth decay, gum disease, and many more.
Treatment For Mouth Cancer
There are multiple ways to diagnose mouth cancer, however, there are also various ways to treat the disease. Considering the location of cancer and your health, your dentist may opt to try the following treatment procedures:
- Surgical. To prevent the spread of cancer, your dentist might recommend removing the tumor surgically. This will help in maintaining the healthy tissues around it. The surgery will include the removal of some parts of the tongue, gum tissues, jawbone, or lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy. Oral cancers are commonly treated with radiation therapy. The treatment uses a high beam of radiation to destroy the DNA inside the tumor. This blocks their capability to reproduce and further damage the surrounding cells.
- Chemotherapy. All types of cancers are often treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is usually combined with radiation therapy most especially if cancer has spread widely. Just like radiation therapy, chemotherapy involves medication that targets the DNA inside the tumor. Unfortunately, due to its intrusiveness, it might also destroy the healthy tissues around the cancer cells.
- Hyperthermia treatment. This specific treatment uses high heat to demolish the cells inside the tumor. Hyperthermia treatment can also be combined with radiation therapy for a better outcome.