Understanding Cancer Of The Mouth And Throat
Cancer of the throat and mouth is extremely dangerous, and can be quite painful. If you have the chance to avoid it by learning about it early on, you can save yourself a world of grief.
The oral cavity (mouth) and the upper part of the throat (pharynx) have roles in many important functions, including breathing, talking, chewing, and swallowing. The mouth and upper throat are sometimes referred to as the oropharynx.
The important structures of the mouth and upper throat include the lips, the inside lining of the cheeks, the teeth, gums, tongues, floor, tonsils, the roof, the area behind the wisdom teeth, and the salivary glands. Many different cell types make up these different structures.
Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation whereby they grow and multiply without normal controls. As the cells multiply, they form small abnormalities called lesions.
Eventually, they form a mass called a tumor. Tumors are cancerous only if they are malignant.
This means that, because of their uncontrolled growth, they encroach on and invade neighboring tissues. Malignant tumors may spread to neighboring tissues by direct invasion or by traveling along lymphatic vessels and nerves or through the blood stream.
They may also travel to remote organs via the bloodstream. This process of invading and spreading to other organs is called metastasis.
Tumors overwhelm surrounding tissues by invading their space and taking the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and function. Tumors in the mouth and throat include both benign and malignant types.
Benign lesions, although they may grow and penetrate below the surface layer of tissue, do not spread by metastasis to other parts of the body. Premalignant conditions are cell changes that are not cancer but which may become cancer if not treated.
Dysplasia is another name for these precancerous cell changes. Dysplasia can be detected only by taking a biopsy of the lesion.
This means to collect a tiny sample of the abnormal area. Examining the dysplastic cells under a microscope indicates how severe the changes are and how likely the lesion is to become cancerous.
The dysplastic changes are usually described as mild, moderately severe, or severe. The 2 most common kinds of premalignant lesions in the oropharynx areleukoplakia and erythroplakia.
Leukoplakia is a white or whitish area. It can often be easily scraped off without bleeding.
Only about 5% of leukoplakias are cancerous at diagnosis or will become cancerous within 10 years if not treated. Erythroplakia is a raised, red area.
If scraped, it may bleed. Erythroplakia is generally more severe than leukoplakia and has a higher chance of becoming malignant over time.
These are often detected by a dentist at a routine dental examination. Several types of malignant diseases occur in the mouth and throat.
Squamous cell carcinoma is by far the most common type, accounting for more than 90% of all cancers. They start in the squamous cells, which form the surface of much of the lining of the mouth and pharynx.
They can invade deeper layers below the squamous layer. Other less common lesions and their varieties of the mouth and throat include minor salivary gland tumors and lymphoma.
Diseases of the mouth and throat do not always metastasize, but those that do usually spread first to the lymph nodes of the neck. From there, they may spread to more distant parts of the body.
About 27,700 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2003. Approximately 7,200 people will die of these cancers during the same period.
The incidence and death rates attributable to oral cancers have been gradually decreasing over the past 20 years. These terrible problems occur in twice as many men as women.
They can develop at any age, but occur most frequently in people aged 45 years and older. Incidence rates of these terrible diseases vary widely from country to country.
These variations are due to differences in risk factor exposures. If you feel you are having any strange symptoms, it is important that you seek the advice of a dentist or oral surgeon right away.
The quicker you can catch the problem, the more likely you are to survive without any kind of problem. Talk to a professional right away, and save yourself lots of future pain!
Ignacio Lopez has worked in oral surgery for 10 years. He has many recommendations of where to look for aoral surgeon Utah.