Be Cautious, LIFE Is Precious
Oral cancer is the only disease perceived to have life and death implications among all the oral diseases. The Indian National Cancer Registry Programme report showed disquieting rises in cancers of the upper aero-digestive tract (mouth, tongue, oro-pharynx, hypopharynx, larynx and oesophagus) among both sexes. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey India, conducted in 2009-10, revealed that 35% of adults used tobacco. Tobacco-related cancers are expected to constitute 30% of the total cancer burden by 2020. More than 90% of oral and pharyngeal cancers occur among individuals over 45 years of age; males are more likely than females to develop them. The primary risk factors for oral cancers in this country are tobacco (betel quid (paan), gutka, zarda, kharra, mawa, khainni, areca nut, bidis and cigarettes) and alcohol use; for lip cancer, exposure to the sun is most important. Advanced oral cancer and its sequelae cause chronic pain, loss of function, and irreparable, socially disfiguring impairment. Oral cancer patients often suffer from the functional, cosmetic, and psychological insults which result in social isolation, significantly burdening patients, their families and society. Oral cancer is treated in a similar way as other cancers are treated — through surgery to eliminate the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any residual cancer cells. To prevent oral cancer, public should be made aware to not to smoke or use any tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation (and refrain from binge drinking); made them eat a well balanced diet and limited exposure to the sun as repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lip, especially the lower lip.
A multi-factorial approach integrating health education, tobacco and alcohol control, increased taxation, early detection, and early treatment is needed to reduce the burden. Improving awareness among the general public and primary care practitioners, investing in health services to provide screening and early diagnosis services for tobacco and alcohol users, and providing adequate treatment for those diagnosed with invasive cancer are critically important oral cancer control measures.