Also known as Head and neck cancer, oral cancer is one of the most life-threatening amongst mouth diseases. Habits of smoking tobacco and related substances are claimed to be the biggest reasons for causing oral cancer. However, the development of cancer in a human takes time, and recognizing the growth is even difficult. Various symptoms that we generally experience, when incorrectly self-diagnosed, may divert us, and we may become ignorant towards a serious disease. Hence, it is important to keep yourself alert and aware of a few misconceptions that are associated with it.
Myths & Facts About Oral Cancer
As shared with us by Dr. Rajdeep P Guha, Head & Neck Onco Surgeon, HCG EKO Cancer Centre Kolkata, let’s look at the few myths relating to head and neck cancers-
1. I chew Tobacco/ I am a smoker. But I won’t get cancer as I brush my mouth daily
Dr Guha says the carcinogens present in tobacco are absorbed from the mucosa, the inner lining of the mouth. That means while smoking, one is absorbing the substances and hence cannot be removed by brushing or rinsing of the mouth.
2. Biopsy also causes cancer
The biopsy is a detection test for cancers. It is the most reliable way of confirming the presence of cancer and does not result in cancer as such. Early detection can lead to better treatment.
3. Oral cancer can be detected by a blood test
This is very commonly misconceived information. As stated above, Biopsy is the most reliable way of identifying and confirms cancer. The experts say that there are no blood tests to detect cancers.
4. I have oral cancer, and “cancer has no answer”, isn’t it?
Oral cancer is quite common in India, and early detection has answers of treatment too. Most people, who get oral cancer, are detected late, and hence treatment becomes difficult.
5. Cancer is contagious, right?
This is another big myth, which is absolutely untrue. People suffering can have an equally normal life as a normal life can be. Staying together, sharing, having a normal physical, professional, and sexual life is very much allowed and possible. Also, no research indicates an inheritance pattern for oral cancer, Dr. Guha suggests.
6. Surgery is very painful. Surgeries are very risky.
Dr. Rajdeep’s opinions state that with more advancement in technology, modern anesthesia, and great safety measures, surgeries are no more painful. In fact, long surgeries could be performed these days very safely.
7. I will never be able to eat after oral cancer surgery.
Many of the surgery treatments seem morbid, a lot of times, to improve the rehabilitation, the excisions are reconstructed. This way, patients can eat almost normally and improve gradually.
8. Tobacco causes cancer but Supari is safe
Supari is as harmful as tobacco. Supari contains arecoline, which is carcinogenic and hence responsible for cancer. So, one can’t call supari a safe substance.
9. Oral cancer is a disease of males.
Just because the consumption of tobacco or supari is more prevalent in males, does not make it a disease of males. In fact, as per the trend in India, Oral cancer is listed on the top 5 for females in India.
10. Oral cancers are painful; mine is not, is it cancer?
The persistence of an oral ulcer for more than 15 days can indicate cancer as suggested by Dr Rajdeep. So, it is better to report it and get yourself tested. Moreover, most oral cancers are generally painless, just like common ulcers. A painful ulcer is due to the involvement of nerve, bone, or deep tissue penetration. So, painless ulcers should be diagnosed too within time.
11. Radiation is harmful to the body
With improvement in radiation machinery, vital areas such as the spine, brain, eyes, salivary glands, and blood vessels are spared while using radiation treatments. Thus, such treatments can be more relied on than ever, being so much better in efficacy and reducing toxicity.
12. E-cigarettes and Hookahs don’t cause cancer.
This is another common myth about e-cigarettes and hookas. But they are as much responsible for increasing the risk of head and neck cancer as a smoked cigarette..
13. Drinking alcohol is safe.
The commensal bacteria present in our mouth are known to convert alcohol to aldehydes, which is carcinogenic. With tobacco, alcohol works in synergy and increases the risk of causing oral cancer.
14. There’s a safe limit for cigarettes.
The risk of acquiring cancer can increase, with even one cigarette per day. Tobacco and other forms of smoking have serious risks associated
An acquired disease, such as cancer, should be born in mind, for it is very much associated with our way we lead our life and the dynamism of our habits. One should not let too much of other’s opinions get into your head because they are not in your shoes. Myths make detection more difficult and cause delays. If you have any doubts regarding the signs and symptoms you are experiencing, get yourself tested and be sure. Also, don’t develop and propagate the same ideas to others, in the case where the information received is not credible.
Stay aware, Stay healthy!
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