There are several types of life threatening oral cancer or mouth cancer and jaw cancer is one of them. Jaw cancer normally occurs on either the upper jaw called the maxilla or the lower jaw called mandible. The symptoms include unbearable pain in the jawbone while eating or chewing, lumps on top of the mouth alongside gumline, swelling of the jaw and tooth mobility. Jaw cancer can be both malignant or benign and can spread to other parts of the mouth as well, if not treated quickly.
Jaw pain can be incredibly persistent and gradually progress towards the neck or other facial nerve, increasing the size of the tumor.
Causes of jaw cancer
One of the major factors responsible for jaw cancer is the use of tobacco. Smoking, cigars, cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco products and consuming alcohol increase the risk. Other factors include heavy exposure to the sun and family history of head and neck cancer.
Early detection of jaw cancer is possible through dental check up. A dentist can see the signs of cancer in your mouth and regular check ups may allow you to know the stage and progress of the tumor. Above mentioned symptoms also suggest jaw cancer, hence consulting the doctor is necessary. A biopsy can ensure if the person is diagnosed with cancerous cells in the mouth.
Doctors can perform various imaging tests, MRI, CT scan, etc to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts as well. Similar to any other mouth cancer, jaw caner is also treated with the same methods, however, it is highly necessary for the patient to make certain changes in his or her life to ensure the treatment is successful. Treatment methods include:
- Surgery: surgery is performed by a maxillofacial surgeon to remove the cancerous cells along with the surrounding tissues from the maxilla and mandible. It is the most common method to treat the first and second stage of jaw cancer.
- Radiation therapy: Another widely used method to treat head and neck cancer where high intensity radiation rays are used to target the tumor, which reduces the growth of cancer cells and eventually destroys it. The method takes a few days to completely remove the tumor.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs inserted into the patient either through the bloodstream or a pill, which kills the cancer cells. Acombination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also employed if the cancer has spread to other regions as well.
All the three methods have their own side effects, which the patient may or may not experience depending on his/her physical condition and severity of the tumor. The complications of treatment usually are:
- Trouble opening mouth
- Mouth sores and dryness
- Change in taste
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Feeling sick
- Pain in mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing
Post operative care
Apart from the treatment, there are certain measures that need to be taken by the patient diagnosed with jaw cancer. It is necessary to avoid the main factors that are responsible for causing the disease to happen in the first place. For instance, quit smoking and alcohol consumption for good, if those are the reasons.
Regular check ups are recommended from doctor on weekly or monthly basis to see if there are signs of cancer coming back.
Having anutritious and healthy diet is necessary.