Gum cancer, a form of oral cancer: early signs, symptoms, stages and treatment | Health
When the gums become swollen and red or when there is a sudden growth on the gums that was not there before, one begins to wonder, “Could this be cancer?” One may experience unexplained bleeding and pain in the gums due to loosening of the teeth or weakening of the gums, which can also be a vital sign of a form of oral cancer known as oral cancer. gums.
Not all swelling or redness of the gums is cancer, but if it persists for more than 3 to 4 weeks, then a specialist should be consulted. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Rajeev Sharan, HOD and Senior Consultant, Head and Neck Cancer and Thyroid Surgery at HCG EKO Cancer Center, Kolkata, explained, “Gum cancer is a form of mouth cancer. It is a type of head and neck cancer that begins when cells in the upper or lower gums begin to grow out of control and form lesions or tumors.
He added: ‘The first visible signs could be a white or red patch inside the mouth or on the lips. Sometimes the overlying skin may also appear thicker or lumpy or there may be a persistent ulcer or erosion in advanced cases. At first it looks like a bump or sore that won’t heal. In addition, the teeth near the wound begin to loosen and sometimes even the dentures do not fit very well.
This cancer is often confused with gingivitis which is caused by plaque buildup, but gingivitis and gum cancer are two separate things and both need to be taken seriously and require consultation with a specialist. People accustomed to smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes or who are accustomed to chewing tobacco, gutkha, hookah, or shush are most at risk of getting oral cancer or gum-related cancer.
Early signs and symptoms of gum cancer
● A mouth sore that does not heal for 3 to 4 weeks
● White or reddish patch inside the mouth
● Loose teeth
● A lump or growth inside the mouth
● Pain in the mouth and ear
● Difficulty chewing and swallowing
● Swelling or thickening, bumps or roughness or eroded areas on the lips, gums, cheeks or other areas inside the mouth
● Unexplained bleeding or numbness, loss of sensation from the lips, or pain and tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
● Unexplained weight loss
Stages of gum cancer
Dr Rajeev Sharan said: “The TNM system is used to grade the stage of oral cancer, where T represents the size and location of the primary tumor, N indicates whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes while M indicates whether the tumor has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.
Some of the different stages of oral cancer are:
● Step 0 – which is also known as carcinoma in situ, it occurs when abnormal cells are found in the lining of the lips or oral cavity with the potential to turn into cancer.
● Step 1 – The abnormal cell coating turned into cancerous cells. They are small in size and have not spread to lymph nodes or any other part of the body.
● Step 2 – Abnormal cancerous tumors are growing but have not spread to the lymph nodes to another part of the body.
● Step 3 – The tumors measure more than 4 cm in diameter and have reached the lymph nodes of the neck.
● Step 4 – The tumors have spread to nearby tissues, such as the jawbone or other parts of the oral cavity, as well as to distant parts of the body beyond the mouth, such as the lungs.
Before recommending treatment, the healthcare provider considers factors such as the nature of the cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the mouth and throat or to other parts of the body in addition to considering the general state of health and the age of the patient. Also, treatment varies from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy depending on how far the cancer has spread.
According to Dr. Rajeev Sharan, some of the main treatments for gum cancer are:
● Mandibulectomy – A procedure to remove cancerous lesions around the jawbone which may be a marginal or segmental mandibulectomy depending on the extent of the disease.
● Partial maxillectomy – Surgery to remove cancer from the upper gum or roof of the mouth
● Dissection of the neck – Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the neck that contain or are likely to contain cancer cells
● Bone reconstruction of the jaw – In case of segmental mandibulectomy, the jaw bone can be reconstructed together with the leg bone (fibula) using microvascular surgery
● Adjuvant radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy in the post op, according to the final pathology reports
The earlier the diagnosis, the simpler the surgery, the better the function and aesthetics after treatment, and the better chance of survival after treatment. Gum cancer is highly curable, provided it is diagnosed early, so it is important to keep your mouth healthy and moist and your teeth and gums clean at all times.