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Oral Cancer Treatment in India

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world particularly in developing countries. The high number of oral cancer cases can be attributed to smoking, alcohol use and chewing tobacco.

What are Oral Cancers?
 Human body is made up of cells. These cells grow, divide and produce more cells in order to keep the body healthy. Some times this process may not function properly and the cells may become abnormal. Cells start multiplying abnormally in an uncontrolled manner. These extra cells form a mass of tissue. This mass of tissue is called as a Growth or Tumour. Tumours can be benign or malignant. Benign Tumours are non-cancerous tumours and Malignant Tumours are the cancerous ones. Oral cancer occurs when a malignant tumour forms in the mouth at various places. These tumours may be formed in oral cavity (inside the mouth), oropharynx (back of the mouth) and in the throat. Most of the oral cancers originates from the tongue or from the floor of the mouth.

What causes Oral Cancer?
Some of the most common risk factors associated with Oral Cancers are:

Tobacco: One of the major causes of Oral Cancers, tobacco in any form like smoking cigarettes, cigars, bidis or pipes, chewing tobacco and using snuff can cause oral cancers.

Alcohol Consumption: If you consume alcohol regularly and in large quantities, you will be more likely to develop oral cancer than those who abstain from alcohol. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The most common symptoms of oral cancers are as follows:

  • Patches in the mouth or on the lips that are white, a mixture of  red and white, or red
  • A non healing sore on the lip or in the mouth
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty in wearing dentures
  • A lump in the neck
  • An earache

How are Oral Cancers Diagnosed?

If symptoms suggest an Oral Cancer, your doctor will ask for a detailed medical history and he will also conduct a physical examination before conducting the following tests:

Biopsy: A biopsy is an accurate way to know if the visibly abnormal area is cancerous or not.  After administering the local anesthesia, your doctor will extract a small sample from the tumour, which will be examined under a microscope. The procedure is called as biopsy.

Once the cancer has been diagnosed , staging of the disease will be done to plan the best treatment option. Staging is a process in which your doctor will try to ascertain the size and the extent of the cancer. The stage will be based on the size of the tumour and to what parts of your body has the cancer spread.

For staging, some other tests from the following list will be required.

Endoscopy: In this procedure, your doctor will use a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope, which will be passed through the nose to view the throat, windpipe and lungs. The doctor will give some mild sedative to ensure that you are comfortable during the procedure.

Dental X-rays: This procedure detects the spread of cancer to the jaw.

Chest X-rays: This procedure detects the spread of cancer to the lungs.

CT Scan/ MRI: This procedure gives you a detailed picture of the tumour in the mouth, throat and neck.

Treatment of Oral Cancers

There are multiple options for treating Oral Cancer, depending on the type and extent of the cancer and general health. Sometimes, a combination of treatments might also be required.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common form of treatment. Along with the removal of tumour, some lymph nodes in the neck and tissues in the mouth may also be removed. Surgery may be performed in combination with the radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is used to destroy cancer cells. It will be used alone for small tumors or if you cannot undergo a surgery. It may be used before the surgery to kill cancer cells and to shrink the tumour. It might be used post-surgery to destroy cancer cells that might have been left during the surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. In this therapy, the patient is administered a drug through a line in vein (IV) or orally. Chemotherapy can be administered alone or in a combination with other treatments. Normally this therapy is administered in cycles, with periods of rest, following every treatment phase.

Side effects of the treatment

The thyroid gland in the neck may get damaged due to radiation, therefore, supplementation with thyroid hormone preparations may be required. There can be changes in the sense of taste and smell in the quality of the voice. Other common side effects are hair loss, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores. Blood cells might get affected causing infections, dryness of mouth, difficulty to swallow, bruising or a tendency to bleed easily and fatigue. However  most of the side effects are temporary in nature and can be treated with medication.

Pain Management

The management of pain is an integral part of cancer treatment. Medications are the cornerstone of cancer pain treatment, and their use is aimed st providing the greatest pain relief possible with the fewest number of side effects and the greatest ease of administration. Doctors usually prescribe medications that ensure maximum pain relief. Sometimes the doctors might recommend some interventional procedures like surgery and/or injections.

Follow-up Care

In Cancer Treatment follow-up care is an essential element of the overall treatment plan. Regular check-ups are advised to detect any changes in health.

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