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There are approximately 30,000 Americans diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and the majority are regular alcoholic beverage drinkers and cigarette smokers. Other risk factors for oral cancer are diet low in vegetables and fruits, increasing age above 40, and exposure to radiation, such as x-rays. Other risk factors include being male, the presence of dental caries, over usage of mouthwash, and chewing tobacco and betel nut. Oral-genital contact can also contribute to the development of oral cancer.
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The most common type of oral cancer is the oral squamous cell carcinoma. The majority of individuals diagnosed with this are above 40 years old. It usually occurs in those with smoking and alcohol drinking histories. However, even younger individuals and those who do not smoke or drink alcohol, are not immune from developing the disease.
One cause of oral squamous cell carcinoma in the younger age group is the HPV16, a human papilloma virus. HPV16 is often the cause of sexually transmitted diseases and has been linked to the increase incidence of oral cancers in non-smoking individuals, or even in the general population.
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During the early stage of the disease, patients are usually asymptomatic or does not present with apparent symptoms. When lesions do occur at the early onset of oral squamous cell carcinoma, they are often regarded as minor health problems and many affected individuals do not seek medical evaluation. A mass on the neck area is sometimes the first symptoms noticed by many oral cancer patients. Other symptoms of oral cancer include difficulty in speaking, swallowing and chewing, hoarseness of voice for a long period of time, numbness in the oral cavity, and pain in one ear.
Physicians often recommend that individuals with ulcerations or mouth sores that do not seem to heal should seek medical evaluation for these in order to have proper treatment and for early detection if ever cancer is the cause. The presence of reddish or whitish patch on the lining of the mouth or inside the oral cavity, as well as bleeding in the area also need to be assessed further.
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Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is usually done after performing procedures to detect for the presence of malignancies. A tissue biopsy is performed by taking some tissue samples from the affected area of the oral cavity. These are then sent to the laboratory for further analysis. Other procedures which may also aid in the diagnosis of oral squamous cell carcinoma include a chest X-ray, CT scans in the neck and head area, and endoscopy.
Surgery and radiation therapy are the modalities of treatment often used by physicians to minimize or stop the recurrence or spread of the cancer cells. Chemotherapy are also administered to inhibit growth of cancer cells.