Oral squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer, that usually develops on the squamous or epithelial cells that cover the oral cavity. The malignant or cancerous cells are usually found on the floor of the mouth or on the surface of the tongue. These cancerous cells can also originate on the lower lips, and the palate or the tonsillar area of the oral cavity. It is one of the most prevalent types of oral and pharyngeal cancer.
The most important risk factors for this cancer are, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption. Many studies have shown that smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol are the leading causes of this disease. More than 90% of the affected individuals have been found to smoke and/or drink alcohol. In addition to these, squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue may be caused by chronic dental caries, and chewing tobacco and betel quid. The oral human papilloma virus (HPV) can also be responsible for causing this cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common sign is the appearance of scaly or ulcerated plaques or lesions in the oral cavity. Sometimes, a red patch of lesions, known as erythroplakia, can be observed. The appearance of leukoplakia, a patch of white tissue on the mucous membrane of the mouth is also very common. Apart from these, sores or lumps on the lips or gums, a white or red patch on the gum, tongue, and the tonsils, and swelling of the jaw, are some other signs and symptoms of this cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils can also cause a sore throat.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Oral lesions or ulcers are usually detected during a physical examination of the lips and the oral cavity. But all such lesions and plaques are not necessarily malignant or cancerous. Therefore, certain tests are required to be performed for an accurate diagnosis of this oral cancer. One of the most important diagnostic tests is a biopsy of the affected area.
In addition to a biopsy, laryngoscopy, bronchoscopy, and esophagoscopy are also carried out to detect and exclude cancer of the larynx, bronchial tubes, and the esophagus. Sometimes, a chest X-ray and CT scans of the head, chest, and the neck are also performed to diagnose this cancer.
This oral cancer is usually treated with surgery and radiation therapy. Surgery is usually carried out in the early stage. Sometimes, chemotherapy is used, particularly if the cancer has spread to other areas, like the lungs, bones, pericardium, and the heart. Squamous cell carcinoma of the lips and the tongue are treated by removing the affected area surgically. However, surgical reconstruction of the lips can be required afterwards to enable the affected individual to carry out the normal oral activities.
This condition can significantly increase the risk of both head and neck cancer. Almost 30,000 people are affected each year by this oral cancer in the United States. It has been observed that this cancer largely affects those who indulge in excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. So, the incidence and the severity of this cancer can be reduced significantly by controlling these risk factors.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.