Oral cancer

Oral cancer is a type of cancer which affects the cells within the oral cavity or area within the mouth.

Risk Factors Percentage of Risk
Tobacco Increases with the amount smoked or chewed (betel nut / quid/pan/ gutkha ) and duration of the habit.
Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop this cancer. 37% of patients who continue to smoke after apparent cure can develop a second cancer of the oral cavity compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.
Alcohol Alcohol consumption strongly increases the risk of cancer of the oral cavity . There is a six-fold increase in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
Ultraviolet light 30% of patients with cancers of the lip have outdoor occupations associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin deficiency Vitamin A deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity.
Plummer-Vinson syndrome Associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. Iron deficiency anemia, esophageal webs, and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). The iron deficiency is typically chronic and severe. It triggers the growth of web-like membranes in the throat which cause dysphagia. The syndrome is more common in women. Treatment is iron supplementation and, if need be, dilation of the web to permit normal swallowing and the passage of food.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection Current research suggests that HPV may be a factor that, together with other influences, contributes to the development of some oral cavity cancers.
Immune system suppression People on immunosuppressive drugs to treat certain immune system diseases, or to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, may be at increased risk for cancers of the oral cavity.
Gender Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women


Examination of oral cavity

If an abnormal area has been found in the oral cavity, a biopsy is the only way to know whether it is cancer. Usually, the patient is referred to an oral surgeon or an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, who removes part or all of the lump or abnormal- looking area. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

Almost all oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous cells line the oral cavity.

Toluidine Blue dye examination

When a patient has oral surface abnormalities that are considered severe and that cover a large area of tissue, the area may be stained with blue dye called toluidine blue. After the dye is applied and the patient rinses with an acetic acid solution, any blue-stained areas that remain indicate the need for further pathologic analysis of that area, most likely using a biopsy technique.


Patients with cancers treated in their early stages, may have little in the way of post treatment disfigurement. For those whose cancer is caught at a later stage, the results of surgical removal of the disease may require reconstruction of portions of their oral cavity or facial features. There may be adjunctive therapy required to assist in speech, chewing of foods, the problems associated with the lack of salivary function, as well as the fabrication of dental or facial prostheses.