Know Why Youngsters Are More Prone To Oral Cancer

Dr. Rakesh Katna, Consultant Surgical Oncology at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre shares about how youngsters are more prone to oral cancer.

Know Why Youngsters Are More Prone To Oral Cancer

Oral cancers constitute 5 per cent of all worldwide cancers and is the 12th most widely seen in Asia. They are the most common cancers in Indian population constituting 30 per cent of all cancers. It is a worldwide public health burden with significant morbidity and mortality. Head and neck cancer is the result of long-lasting exposure to tobacco and alcohol.  

Lately, due to increased risk of addiction and usage of alcohol, smoking, smokeless tobacco have led to more number of young patients being detected with oral cancers especially tongue cancers. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection appears to be a major risk factor for the younger population and has been studied in detail though the prevalence is more in the western population.

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The tongue cancer patients generally have symptoms like a long-standing ulcer in the tongue, a lump in the neck, bleeding ulcer, difficulty to eat and change in voice. These symptoms along with any history should be taken seriously and evaluated by a head neck specialist at the earliest. As we know cancer is curable if treated early same is true with head and neck cancers as well. Patients who are diagnosed early can be cured and live a longer life as compared to advanced cancers.

Contrary to the common perception we are seeing more and younger population coming to our head neck clinic especially from rural hinterland and suburban regions. The reason for this shift is increased access and use of tobacco and tobacco-related products early on in life. According to statistics, 50 per cent of smokers smoke their first cigarette in school, making them more vulnerable to develop cancer at an early age. -Dr. Rakesh Katna 

The role of surgery in tongue cancers is well defined and is evolving with the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to treatment employing chemotherapy and radiotherapy sequentially or concurrently. The advent of robotic surgery and newer radiation techniques have also helped in achieving better controls and good quality of life for oral cancer patients. We should educate the youth for the risk posed by tobacco and associated products by focussing more on school health programmes and prevent this increased risk of becoming an epidemic.

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