The beginning of any cancer can be traced on the cells, which are the building blocks of tissues. These tissues are the ones that made up the organs of our body. Normal cells naturally grow and divide in order to form new cells that the body needs. The old cells get damaged eventually, but they are replaced by news ones.
However, there are times when this process might go wrong. There are new cells that are formed even if the body no longer need them. Aside from that, there are also old and damaged cells that do not die. Eventually, these cells build up then become a mass of tissue, which is called as tumors.
Types of Tumors
There are two (2) general types of tumors, which are either benign or malignant. The first one is not usually a threat to life. They can be removed and they do not grow back. Moreover, benign tumors do not invade the tissues surrounding them, So, they do not spread in the other parts of a person’s body.
On the other hand, malignant tumors could be a threat to life. This is because they are quite stubborn and may grow back even if they are removed. In contrary to benign tumors, they invade and damage tissues or organs around them. Eventually, they may spread into other parts of the body as well.
In the case of oral cancer, almost all its cases begin in flat or squamous cells. These flat cells cover the surfaces of the person’s mouth, as well as tongue and even lips. They spread when they break away from the original tumor. They can enter into blood or lymph vessels. Usually, the cancer cells appear near the lymph nodes on its onset.
How oral cancer is diagnosed?
If a person has symptoms that may suggest that it is oral cancer, consultation with a doctor or dentist is recommended. The patient’s mouth or throat will be checked for possible presence of some red or white lumps and patches. For the physical exam, the mouth’s roof, throat’s back and cheeks’ insides will be checked.
For further diagnosis, the doctor or dentist may refer the patient to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Lighted tube can be used to do the procedure, while there are also times when there is a need to capture pictures of the mouth and surrounding areas through the use of CT scan and MRI. This is to detect hidden tumors.
For advanced diagnostic procedure, biopsy can be conducted, which is the process of removing small pieces of tissues in order to look for the cancer cells. This is usually administered with local anaesthesia.
Stages of Oral Cancer
If a person is confirmed to have oral cancer, the stage or extent of the condition has to be determined. This is to identify the appropriate treatment that the patient needs.
Generally, there are four (4) stages of oral cancer. Stages I and II are considered as early cancer stages while III and IV are advanced cancer stages. For the early stage, the tumor is usually smaller than a walnut while advanced cancer stage has a tumor size that is as big as lime.