Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer also called oral cancer, is much commoner world-wide than most people think. It is relatively common in the Asian subcontinent. It is primarily caused by tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption, a small percentage are caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV virus).

Treatment depends on the stage of the disease, any co-existing illnesses you may have, which may limit the extent of treatment you can cope with and your decision after your case has been discussed with a group of experts known in the UK as a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). The stage is worked out by combining the results of diagnostics tests which will be arranged as soon as it is felt you have a cancer. Very rarely they may be arranged before biopsy but usually this is after as the biopsy confirms whether or not it is a cancer and what type of cancer it is.

Treatment may be intended to cure if the cancer has a good chance of cure or palliative if there is no chance of cure or it is very unlikely you can cope with the treatment. You are in charge of this decision but there are many people available to help you make it. In the best units treating mouth cancer in the UK cures are achieved in over 65% of patients and your life in the aftermath of treatment will take on increasingly greater significance.

Figure 1: An example of squamous cell carcinoma of the left anterior floor of mouth.

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