Doctors cannot always explain why one person develops oral cancer and another does not. However, we do know that this disease is not contagious. You cannot "catch" oral cancer from another person.
Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop oral cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a disease.
If the biopsy shows that cancer is present, your doctor needs to know the stage (extent) of your disease to plan the best treatment. The stage is based on the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.
Staging may require lab tests. It also may involve endoscopy. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) to check your throat, windpipe, and lungs. The doctor inserts the endoscope through your nose or mouth. Local anesthesia is used to ease your discomfort and prevent you from gagging. Some people also may have a mild sedative. Sometimes the doctor uses general anesthesia to put a person to sleep. This exam may be done in a doctor's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital.
Public awareness of oral cancer is high, but knowledge of the early signs of the condition and alcohol's status as a contributor to the disease remain low. That's the conclusion of new research published in the latest edition of the British Dental Journal.
The research, carried out by staff at University College, London and Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Dental Institute, found that more than 95 per cent of those surveyed had heard of mouth cancer; a higher level of awareness than the 56 per cent recorded in a similar study in 1999. The increased likelihood of suffering mouth cancer as a result of using tobacco products was also well recognised, with almost 85 per cent of those surveyed associating the disease with smoking and over 80 per cent making the link between the condition and chewing tobacco.
But the survey of 3,384 adults found that less than 20 per cent of those quizzed made the link between alcohol use and mouth cancer. Knowledge of signs that an individual might have the condition were also of concern, with only a third of those in the survey recognising that white patches in the mouth could indicate the presence of oral cancer.
Furthermore, the research found that those at the highest risk of suffering from mouth cancer had the most meagre knowledge of the condition. Smokers, and those who consumed alcohol most regularly, were less likely to recognise the early signs of the disease.