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Smoking And Oral Cancer

Introduction

Smokers are at higher risk of dying from oral cancer than those who have never smoked.

  • The risk of dying from oral cancer increases with the amount smoked per day.
  • The risk of oral cancer is about 5 to 10 times greater among smokers compared to people who never smoked.
  • This risk is further multiplied among smokers who also drink alcohol.

Usual methods use for smoking

Cigarettes

  • Pipes
  • Cigars
  • Shisha or hookah (water pipe smoking)

Dental problem associated with smoking includes

Bad breath

  • Tooth discoloration
  • Increased risk of white patches (leukoplakia) inside the mouth
  • Increased risk of developing gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss
  • Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment or oral surgery
  • Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
  • Increased risk of developing oral cancer

What is oral cancer?

Oral Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue and do not know when to stop growing.

Common sites for oral cancer includes

Tongue (Figure 1)

  • Mouth
  • Cheek
  • Lips (Figure 2)
  • Palate

Tounge

Figure 1 : Tounge

Lip

Figure 2 : Lip

How does smoking increase the risk of Oral Cancer?

Chemicals contain in tobacco smoke cause genetic changes in cells of the mouth cavity which can promote oral cancer. These carcinogenic chemicals come in contact with the mouth tissues either through inhalation of smoke or direct contact when tobacco is chewed. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors.

Can the risk of Getting Oral Cancer be reduced when one quit smoking?

When people quit smoking, the risk of oral cancer starts to decrease rapidly. Numerous studies examining the relative risk for oral cancer among former smokers have found that the risk for oral cancer was lower among former smokers after the first few years of abstinence than for those who continued to smoke.

After 3 to 5 years of quitting

  • Oral cancer risk can be decreased to as much as 50%.
  1. After 10 to 20 years of quitting
  • The risk decreases to almost the same level as that of someone who has never smoked.

Benefit of quitting after removal of oral cancer lesions

Decrease the risk of developing a new one .Quitting is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of oral cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

Warning signs of Oral Cancer

Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

  • A chronic sore throat or hoarse voice that does not heal.
  • Red patches in the mouth, cheek or tongue. (Figure 4)
  • White patches in the mouth, cheek or tongue. (Figure 3)
  • A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth.
  • A painless ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within 2 weeks
  • Any abnormal growth , lump and bumps in the mouth

White patches

Figure 3 : White patches

A combination of white and red patches

Figure 4 : A combination of white

and red patches

What should do when you have these warning signs?

If you notice any abnormal signs stated above, visit the dentist at once. Early detection and treatment can save life and improve treatment outcomes.

Treatment for oral cancer

Treatment of oral cancer depends on the location, size, type, and extent of the tumor, as well as the age and health of the patient.

  • Oral cancers are normally treated by surgery or radiotherapy or both. In some cases, chemotherapy may help. Your doctor will advise you on the best options.

Take home message

Smoking is a modifiable behavior. Choose not to smoke and prevent risks from oral cancer.

  • If you are smoking, quit now.
  • If you never smoke, don’t start.
  • If you have quit, remain quit.

Early cancer detection can save life. Look out for the warning signs and come for dental checkup regularly.

References

Medical Dictionary, 2009.

  1. com. http://www.medicinenet.com/oralhealth accessed on 11 April 2013.
  2. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/oral-cancer accessed on 11 April 2013.