Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cavity Cancer

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases known to mankind. There are many types of cancer. Of these, oral cancer is the sixth most dangerous cancer of all. India ranks first in the world with the highest cases of oral cancer. The country also takes up 1/3 of the total cancer burden globally. There are 77,000 new oral cancer cases in India every year, with over 52,000 deaths, and a very high fatality rate. 

Community health should therefore focus on increasing awareness about oral cancer globally. Health practitioners and patients should focus on early detection and treatment. The chances of curing cancer in its late stages are low, with less than a 20% survival rate.

Oral cancers affect the following:

  • Tongue
  • Inner cheek lining
  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Mouth floor

Diagnosing oral cavity cancer

Some doctors may detect oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in routine examinations. These cancers can be detected when the patients experience some symptoms and go to the doctor.

Full head and neck examination

Before commencing oral cancer treatment in Delhi, ENT specialists examine the oral cavity along with the head and neck for abnormalities. In addition, they will check the lymph nodes for any swelling. Some areas that are hard to see are checked with fiber-optic scopes, like the oropharynx.


Panendoscopy checks for cancers in the lung and esophagus, especially in smokers. Cancer in the lung or esophagus exposes patients to oral cancer. Therefore, a doctor will pass endoscopes down the throat to check the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, and oropharynx.


During a biopsy, a doctor removes small pieces of tissue or cells for sampling. These samples are taken to the lab to test for cancer cells. A biopsy is more direct in pointing out cancer cells in certain tissue parts.

Exfoliative cytology

The specialist scrapes parts of the oral cavity and smears the samples on a glass slide in this procedure. Then, they use a dye to stain the cells to detect abnormal cells which are then taken for biopsy.


An X-ray is done on the chest after diagnosing oral cancer to check if it has affected the lungs.

CT/CAT scan

A CAT scan helps the doctor see the tumor’s location and size. It helps find the best treatment if it has spread to the lungs, neck, and other organs.

Stages of oral cancer

Stage 1: The tumor is smaller or around 2 centimeters big. It means that cancer has not spread into the lymph nodes.

Stage 2: The tumor has grown between 2 and 4 centimeters. The cancer cells are growing but are yet to spread into the lymph nodes.

Stage 3: The tumor is either 4 centimeters or bigger and is not affecting the lymph nodes. The tumor could also be bigger and affect one lymph node without affecting other body parts.

Stage 4: Tumors can be of variable size, and the cancer cells affect other surrounding tissues, including the lymph nodes and body parts.

Around 60% of oral cancer patients will live for five years. Early diagnosis means a higher survival rate post-treatment. Therefore, doctors should focus on timely diagnosis to treat oral cancer in stages 1 and 2.

Treatment of oral cancer

Many factors determine oral cancer treatment. These include location, type, and stage of cancer during diagnosis. So, Book An Appointment.

  • Surgery

Surgery is the preferred oral cancer treatment in Delhi and medical facilities located elsewhere for the early stages of oral cancer. The surgery aims to remove the tumor and lymph nodes affected by cancer. In addition, any other affected tissues may be taken out from the neck and mouth.

  • Radiation therapy

The doctor directs radiation beams to reduce the tumor in this method of treatment. This procedure can be performed once or twice in five days. However, it can take between two and eight weeks for complete treatment.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment where drugs are administered to kill the cancerous cells. The medication is offered orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy is done on an outpatient basis though exceptional cases may need hospitalization.

  • Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy can be used in both early and advanced cancer stages. These drugs combine specific proteins on cancer cells to prevent their growth.

Oral cancer treatment recovery

Recovery depends on various factors including the stage of cancer and the type of treatment for it. After surgery, most patients experience pain and swelling. Removal of small tumors has no long-term effects. However, removing large tumors may affect chewing, swallowing, and speech during recovery.

Radiation and chemotherapy side effects

  • Dry mouth
  • Sore mouth and throat
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tooth decay
  • Bleeding gums
  • Weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Poor appetite

Despite the breakthrough in cancer treatment, recurrent cancer is still a concern. Recurrent cancer can manifest at the exact location it was before. In some cases, it may affect a location near the previous one or the lymph nodes. Oral cancer is hard to treat, and there are ongoing clinical trials to find newer treatments. If non-invasive methods were used to treat cancer initially, the subsequent treatment should be surgery to clear off any cancer cells.

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