What is Oral Cancer?
Cancer occurring in the tissues of oral cavity (begins at the lips and extends backwards to the front part of the tonsils) or oropharynx (part of the throat) is termed as oral cancer.
Oral Cavity 
Different parts in your oral cavity
Gums and Teeth
Lining of cheeks
Floor of the mouth
Roof of the mouth (hard palate)
Signs and Symptoms
- A persistent sore in the mouth, face or neck which does not heal
- Difficulty in opening the mouth
- Development of white, red or mixed patches on tongue, gums or inner linings of mouth
- A lump or hard mass in the neck
- Chronic pain in mouth, tongue/jaw pain
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
- Swelling, thickening, lumps or bumps on lips, gums or inner cavity of mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in mouth
- Hoarseness or change in voice
- Loose teeth and ill-fitting dentures
- Unexplained weight loss
Some of the above signs and symptoms may also be present in benign tumors of oral cavity as well as in other diseases or cancers. However, if they persist for more than 2 weeks, one should consult a doctor for further evaluation.
Diagnosis and Tests 
a. Medical history, General physical examination and Oral examination
A thorough history is taken before the examination regarding duration and frequency of tobacco use in any form like cigarette, beedi, chewing pan, gutka, khaini etc and of alcohol consumption.
Oral examination: A careful examination of entire inner cavity of the mouth which includes the roof of mouth, back of the throat, and inside of cheeks and lips is then carried out. The doctor looks for red or white patches or any other abnormal areas over head, neck or face. He/she also examines for any lumps, swelling or any other problem with the nerves of mouth or face. If any abnormal area is found during examination, it is confirmed by further tests which are detailed below.
b. Invasive tests:
- Brush cytology: In this test, the suspected area/lesion is brushed and the cells are looked at under microscope for abnormal cells by a pathologist.
- Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC): In this test, a thin needle which is attached to a syringe is used to draw few cells from the suspected lump or swelling. These cells are smeared onto a glass slide, then stained and examined under microscope by a pathologist to examine for abnormal cells. FNAC is generally used to diagnose metastatic carcinoma of head and neck, in the cervical region. It is hardly ever utilized as a first line diagnostic modality.
- Biopsy: A small piece of tissue is taken from suspicious area using a punch biopsy instrument. Sometimes it may be done under the guidance of endoscopy, if the lesion is not easily accessible. This tissue is processed in the laboratory and examined for presence or absence of cancer.
c. Imaging tests: Imaging tests are done to confirm the diagnosis, document the extent of spread of disease, staging etc. The most common diagnostic imaging tests are X-rays, CT scan, MRI and PET scan.
d. Other tests:
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Testing: Oral cancers with HPV infection are on the rise. Doctors may test the biopsy sample for the presence of HPV infection as the possible cause.
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