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Oral Cancers: Devastating Forms of Carcinoma

Dr Kumaresh Krishnamoorthy



Screening methods
A conventional oral examination has long been the standard method for oral cancer screening.
Toluidine blue (also known as tolonium chloride) is a vital dye that may stain abnormal tissues and has been used for decades as an aid to identify such abnormalities of the oral cavity.
Recent studies at the University of Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute show that epithelial cells of the mouth collected by a simple “swish and spit” method can be used to detect potential early evidence of oral cancer.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore are developing a saliva test to detect oral cancers that is inexpensive, easy to perform and painless.
The discovery of these new targets may lead to a simple clinical tool for the early diagnosis of oral cancer.

Signs and Symptoms
An early indication of oral, head and neck cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of your mouth usually look or feel. Signs and symptoms may include:
  • A sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or increases in size
  • Persistent pain in your mouth
  • Lumps or white, red or dark patches inside your mouth
  • Thickening of your cheek
  • Unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue
  • Difficulty in moving your jaw, or swelling or pain in your jaw
  • Soreness in your throat or a feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Pain around your teeth, or loosening of your teeth
  • Numbness of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth
  • Changes in your voice
  • Pain in the ear without evidence of local ear problems
  • A lump in your neck
  • Bad breath
These symptoms may be indicative of cancer or other, less serious conditions.
  • The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.
  • Cut down on chewing betel-quid and avoid using tobacco in the ingredients
  • If you are going to chew betel-quid, don’t keep it in the mouth for long periods of time
  • Discourage children and young adults from chewing betel quid
  • Regular check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
  • Many types of abnormalities can develop in the oral cavity in the form of red or white spots.  Some are harmless and benign, some are cancerous, others are pre-cancerous, meaning they can develop into cancer if not detected early and removed.
  • Finding and removing tissues before they become cancerous can be one of the most effective methods for reducing the incidence of the disease.
  • Recently, the Academy of General Dentistry reported that simply swishing green tea around the mouth halts the growth of new oral cancer cells and breaks down and kills existing oral cancer cells without harming normal ones.


Dr. Kumaresh Krishnamoorthy is Senior Consultant in ENT - Head and Neck Surgeon and Neurotologist, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.
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