As we observe World Oral Health Day on 20th March, research by doctors at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals suggests that men above the age of 40 years are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer than women. Additionally, trends suggest 25% of all oral cancer patients have been nonsmokers or non-alcoholic, indicating other crucial risk factors pertaining to oral hygiene. Oral cancers are also associated with sores/ulcers in the mouth that don’t heal for a very long time. This is usually a consequence of ignored or delayed attention to oral health and ailments like cavities, gum diseases, cracked or broken teeth that constantly irritates the skin.
In one such similar case, a 42-year-old man from Kanpur recently underwent surgery for tongue cancer under the supervision of Dr. Praveen Kumar Garg, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. With no history of tobacco or alcohol consumption, the man was presented at the hospital with complaints of an ulcer on the tongue for the past two months. The ulcer had become like an open sore that was not healing. Upon examination, it was discovered that the man had been ignoring a sharp tooth that had persistently protruded the skin on his tongue creating a permanent sore. A biopsy was done which revealed that the patient had squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common form of skin/ oral cancer. This kind of cancer if not treated on time can spread to the tissues and bones, where its surgical removal or treatment may become very complicated and in many cases feasible. The patient was admitted on 22nd February 2021 for the surgical removal of this ulcer.
Dr Praveen Kumar Garg, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says, ‘In the past few years, over 25% of all oral cancer patients admitted in our hospitals were found to be nondrinkers & nonsmokers. It has been observed that the number of such patients is only increasing every year. There are an array of other possible factors that can cause oral cancers. Not maintaining oral hygiene is one of the keys amongst them. Cancer is associated with long-standing wounds, hence, there are chances that broken teeth that cause persistent ulcers or wounds on the tongue can increase the chance of mouth cancer.
“In this case, the patient’s biopsy revealed a squamous cell carcinoma,. We immediately decided to surgically remove it because this cancer can spread rapidly and can cause irreparable harm to the tissues and the bones. We did a hemiglossectomy with neck dissection. In this process, part of the tongue and glands from the neck are removed. After a successful surgery, the patient was kept under observation for two days and was then discharged on 25th February 2021.”
It is essential to get examined for oral health at least once in 6 months. Most dental and oral problems can be diagnosed during a dental examination. Additionally, to practice good oral hygiene at home, we need to ensure to brush our teeth twice a day, follow a diet high on fiber and avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Oral health is related to the underlying overall health of the body, hence maintaining oral hygiene becomes of utmost importance.