There has been a steady increase in the toll of oral cancer cases globally, in the past decade and 99 percent of these cases can be prevented if diagnosed early. In this dire need of awareness about oral cancer, we sat down with Dr B. Siva Reddy MDS, Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology at Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore to get all the necessary insights.
Harichandana (HC): Let’s start with some basic understanding. So sir, What exactly is this oral cancer?
Dr. Siva Reddy: Oral cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled, uncoordinated cell growth & differentiation resulting in neoplasm (abnormal tissue) of the oral cavity. This cancer originates from the molecular level. Of all the oral cancer cases around 90% are accounted for by squamous cell carcinoma.
HC: Is Oral cancer fatal? How prevalent is Oral cancer worldwide and in India?
Dr.Siva Reddy: Yes, Oral cancer is considerably fatal as it can be asymptomatic during the initial stages. It is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity in the world and is fatal to the patient. It is the 6th most prevalent cancer in the world and the 3rd most prevalent cancer in developing countries like India.
HC: What are the common sites where this disease occurs?
Dr.Siva Reddy: The common sites for oral cancer are lip, tongue, buccal mucosa, vestibule, gingiva, the floor of the mouth and the oropharyngeal region.
HC: Which category of people are most likely to develop oral cancer?
Dr. Siva Reddy: It is mostly seen in -
People associated with adverse habits like tobacco consumption[in any form like smoking, chewing], alcoholism, and betel quid consumption
Western population and among Asian population south-east Asians are more likely to develop this disease
Common in people over 45 years of age where a steep rise of cases is noticed in between 60 - 64 years of age
In the case of gender predilection males are 6 times more prone than females because of their habits
HC: What are the causes of oral cancer?
Dr.Siva Reddy: Oral cancer is a multi-factorial disease . Various causes for the occurrence of disease are -
Adverse habits - Tobacco consumption (in any form - chewing, smoking), alcoholism, betel quid consumption
Infections like syphilis, candida infections
High radiation exposure
Some cancer-causing viruses (oncovirus) like Human - papillomavirus & Hepatitis - B virus, Epstein bar virus (DNA VIRUS ), Human T lymphocyte virus (RNA VIRUS )
Oro -dental factors like poor oral hygiene, ill-fitting dentures and sharp teeth that cause mucosal irritation
HC: What are the symptoms and signs to look out for early detection of oral cancer?
Dr. Siva Reddy :
Non-healing blisters/sores if observed even after 2 weeks post treatment. Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
Numbness, pain or tenderness over face, neck & mouth without a cause
Difficulty in chewing, swallowing and moving jaws
Rough spots, crusty areas & white patches in the mouth
Unintentional weight loss
are some of the important symptoms to look out for.
HC: How do tobacco and alcohol increase the risk of cancer?
Dr. Siva Reddy: Tobacco and alcohol have carcinogenic agents (cancer-causing agents ) like alkaloids that cause permanent DNA damage. This damaged DNA along with the defective genes cause uncontrolled proliferation of cells resulting in cancer.
HC: Sir, previously you mentioned some viruses as one of the potential causes for oral cancer, are vaccines available against these cancer-causing viruses?
Dr.Siva Reddy: Yes vaccines are available against HPV (Cervarix, Gardasil) and Hepatitis B. But there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C.
HC: Is there any genetic predisposition for oral cancer?
Dr.Siva Reddy: Yes, studies show that some families are more prone to develop oral cancer due to hereditary defects of some genes like
Tumor suppressor genes
Growth factor and receptor genes
Signal transducing genes
which may increase the chances of developing oral cancer.
Today we got to know about the causes, prevalence and symptoms of Oral cancer. In the upcoming article we shall deal with the detection and prevention of Oral Cancer. Stay tuned to MedBound Times for Part - 2 of the Oral Cancer Series!