Doctor, What is Mouth cancer?


A picture of tongue cancer 

A picture of tongue cancer 

Most people have heard of cancer affecting parts of the body such as the lungs or breasts.

However, cancer can occur in the mouth, where the disease can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. It can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early! 

In Malaysia, five in every 100,000 men in have oral cancer; while four in every 100,000 women have oral cancer. 

Oral cancer is the 11th commonest cancer in Malaysia, with Indians having the highest risk, followed by Malays and Chinese.  Sabah and Sarawak have higher prevalence of oral cancer compared to peninsular Malaysia, this probably due to their oral tobacco habits. 

There are about two new cases of oral cancer were diagnosed every day in our country. This is quite a substantial figure although oral cancer is not among the commonest cancers here. Throughout the world, oral cancer is the 6th most common cancers. 


Q: Am I at risk of mouth cancer?

Generally, the risk factors of oral cancer are smoking, tobacco habits (dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products), alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure and immune problems.

However, some specific areas of the mouth has specific risk factors. For instance, the floor of the mouth tends to be associated with smoking and alcohol, whereas the cheeks tend to be linked to chewing betel and tobacco.

Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, whether they have their own teeth or not. Average age of getting oral cancer is about 60 years for the three main races. For the indigenous people, it is about 55. Man with diagnosed of mouth cancer higher can women. However, research has shown that mouth cancer is becoming more common in younger patients and in women. 

Early detection can saves lives! If you're at risk, get a mouth screening with your dentist!