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The Silent Assassin — Oral Cancer


Oral cancer is considered the deadliest since its symptoms are not apparent in the early stages, and most people will dismiss them as common dental problems. Professor Peter James Thompson, Clinical Professor in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Dentistry said the number of oral cancer patients in Hong Kong is on a rise, from 394 confirmed cases in 1996 to nearly 700 in 2016, showing an increase of up to 70%, denoting the increasing prevalence of oral cancer.

Are you experiencing any of the below symptoms? 

Identifying the symptoms early can make a whole world of difference. Oral cancer is mainly caused by squamous cell carcinoma of the oral mucosa, and can appear anywhere in the mouth including the lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, cheek mucosa, gums, hard palate, posterior molar area, and jaw. Here are the symptoms to keep an eye out for: 

  • Unidentified red and white spots on the tongue  
  • Oral mucosal ulcers that bleed easily and do not heal easily  
  • Unexplained bleeding in the oral cavity  
  • Unexplained swelling and pain in the neck  
  • Unexplained pain or numbness in the tongue, cheeks, lips, etc.  
  • Irregular protrusion and hardening of the oral mucosa surface 
Bad habits heighten the risk of oral cancer

Tobacco and e-cigarettes 

Smoking is one of the factors that causes oral cancer. Tobacco or e-cigarettes emit a variety of carcinogens when they are burned, and the carcinogens stay in the mouth for a long time, which increases the chances of developing oral cancer. Statistics from the University of California show that 8 out of 10 oral cancer patients have smoking habits.

Consuming alcohol

Studies have shown approximately 80% of oral cancer patients have the habit of drinking alcohol, which will directly stimulate the oral mucosa and lead to the loss of certain nutrients, causing the oral mucosa cells to become cancerous and slowly evolve into oral malignant cells, thus increasing the risk of oral cancer.


Poor nutrition will lower the body’s immunity and lead to metabolic imbalance, making the body weaker and more susceptible to invasion by germs. For example, the lack of vitamin A can cause thickening of the oral mucosa epithelium and hyperkeratosis, which can lead to oral cancer.

Personal hygiene

Poor hygiene conditions will naturally become a hotbed of bacteria. To prevent your mouth from becoming the cradle of bacteria, maintain oral hygiene at all times.Caretakers for elderlies should also keep an eye on their denture, and make sure they are properly cleaned every day. 

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