Oral, Head And Neck Cancer Awareness Week 2020: The word cancer itself brings fear and anxiety in the minds of the people. Tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) and alcohol are the major risk factors for the development of oral cancer in India. Poor oral hygiene, sharp teeth or ill-fitting dentures and lack of proper nutrition also contribute to oral cancers. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection can also lead to oral cancer. The average age for initiation of tobacco habits in India is around 13 years which means it is our young school children who are getting addicted.
"Throat cancer develops in the voice box, tonsils, oropharynx and other parts of the throat. Its 9th most common cancer in India with 30000 new cases annually. Most common symptoms change in voice, sore throat for 3-4 weeks, difficulty in swallowing and weight loss. The leading cause is smoking, alcohol, acid reflux disease and HPV infections." says Dr Sanket Shah, Surgical Oncologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital Mumbai.
It has been well established that all oral cancers are preceded by some visible clinical changes in the mouth in the form of a white or red patch (precancerous lesions). Oral submucous fibrosis is a unique precancerous condition seen in our country which is associated with betel quid chewing and found in one-third of our cancer patients. Most of these lesions are asymptomatic and the main aim of treatment is to prevent or detect cancer development early. A persistent ulcer or sore inside the mouth that does not heal after 3 weeks, a red or white patch, a sore that bleeds spontaneously or a neck lump that does not resolve on its own needs to be checked by a doctor. A biopsy along with CT/MRI scan can give a definite oral cancer diagnosis. Surgery and radiotherapy are the mainstays of treatment for throat cancer. In the early stage, laser surgery gives good results and preservation of voice but associated with the removal of the voice box in advance stage. Radiotherapy can be an alternative treatment for voice preservation and better quality of life
Dr Shravan Shetty, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Head & Neck Surgical Oncologist, Asian Cancer Institute, Mumbai, says that "the treatment in head and neck cancers in India has kept pace with the recent advances globally. Surgery remains the primary treatment in oral cancers with an extremely high success rate of cure. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy also play a key role in the treatment of oral cancer. The earlier the cancer is detected the better are the chances of cure and complete recovery."
Tips to prevent oral cancer includes avoiding tobacco and tobacco products, avoiding alcohol, eating plenty of fresh fruits and green-yellow vegetables and getting regular dental check-ups. Oral visual examination is an established method of picking up precancerous lesions as well as early stages of oral cancer by a simple visual examination by trained caregivers under adequate light. It is extremely cost-effective in a resource-limited setting. Oral cancer awareness should be done in schools and colleges as children and young adults are getting addicted to tobacco and alcohol.
On the occasion of April being Oral Cancer Awareness month, Dr Shravan Shetty highlights the fact that oral cancers can be detected early. Simple but thorough oral examination can detect oral cancers early. Early detection of oral cancer can improve the cure rates and hence improve survival.
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