With the increasing incidence rate of oral cancer worldwide, it is evident enough that a lot more needs to be done to spread awareness about the issue in order to combat it and emerge victorious. Dr. Anjali Singh of Medbound Times had an interesting educational conversation with Dr. Apoorva Gupta about oral cancer.
Dr. Apoorva Gupta is a Stomatologist and Maxillofacial Radiologist who specializes in oral cancer screening. She is currently practicing in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.
Dr. Anjali Singh: Ma'am, if you were to explain it in simplified terms, what is oral cancer?
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: Oral cancer, also widely known as mouth cancer affects the oral and maxillofacial structures which include structures like lips, tongue, inner cheeks, and upper throat region. It is a hydra-headed disease with devastating effects and may even lead to deaths in some cases that go undiagnosed and untreated.
Dr. Anjali Singh: Ma'am, what are some common symptoms of oral cancer?
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: Some of the common symptoms of oral cancer include -
- Initially, oral cancer starts as a painless growth, a white or red patch in the mouth, or a persistent ulcer or sore in the mouth that remains unhealed and lasts longer than 14 days.
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Difficulty with speech
- Sudden unintentional weight loss
- Difficulty in moving the jaw and opening of mouth [Trismus]
- Ear ache
Dr. Anjali Singh: How common is oral cancer in India?
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: India is a vast land encompassing people with diverse habits from diverse parts of the country, and a report from the ICMR states that about one-third of oral cancer cases are reported from India, which is a huge number. And if we talk about cancer cases in India, amongst all the cases of cancer that are reported, about 30% are oral cancer cases, and this is something to ponder about because, again, this is not a small number. And one of the reports from GLOBOCAN in 2018 states that every year around 1.2 lakh new cases of mouth cancer are reported worldwide, and this was in 2018, after which the incidence rate has only gone uphill and about 72,000 deaths have been reported per year due to oral cancer singlehandedly.
Dr. Anjali Singh: Even after all the awareness that is being raised, the number has only gone uphill drastically which is quite concerning.
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: And the numbers that we are talking about are the numbers that are diagnosed and reported. We also have to keep in mind the undiagnosed and unreported cases, especially from remote and rural areas as well as tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
Dr. Anjali Singh: True, especially in rural areas where the prevalence of oral cancer is quite high, the cases and deaths usually go unreported. So ma'am, as oral cancer affects the orofacial region and the neck, which region is the most affected?
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: Oral Cancer usually affects the lips, gums, inner cheeks, and other surrounding regions but the most affected part is the lip region. Lip cancer is more prevalent and it has a significant reason behind it because the lip area is the area most exposed to the UV rays of the sun as well as to cigarettes and tobacco chewing. Whenever a person smokes a bidi or a cigarette, it is held at the lips.
Dr. Anjali Singh: Yeah, even while chewing tobacco, the tobacco is held in the vestibule region.
Dr. Apoorva Gupta: Exactly. In oral cancer, squamous cell cancer is the most common cancer; in fact, more than 90% of cases are squamous cell carcinoma. And squamous cell carcinoma is also the most prevalent when it comes to lip cancer. The most common is lip cancer, and apart from that, the second most commonly affected region is the floor of the mouth because it is the thinnest mucosal lining in the oral cavity and thus it is more prone to oral cancer. It basically depends upon the thickness of the skin; the region with a thin mucosal lining is more prone than a region with a thicker mucosal lining. Some other areas that are commonly affected are the buccal mucosa which is your inner cheek, gums, tongue, gingiva, and palate.
Stay tuned to MedBound Times for part 2 of this educational conversation with Dr. Apoorva Gupta.