Gum cancer: causes, symptoms, treatments

Gum cancer causes symptoms treatments

Gum cancer is most often caused by excessive consumption of tobacco and alcohol. What are the symptoms ? The treatment ? When should you consider gum surgery?

Gum cancer is a type of cancer of the oral cavity or mouth cancer. In most cases, it is a squamous cell carcinoma that develops in the gum tissue. How do you know if the gum is diseased or that you have cancer? How is gum cancer treated? ?

Definition: what is gum cancer?

THE gum cancer is one of the cancers of the oral cavity which include cancers of the lips, cheeks, tongue and palate. In 90% of cases, gum cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. which develops from the mucosa, i.e. the tissue covering the gums“Informs Dr Philippe Gorphe, ENT surgeon in the head and neck oncological surgery department of the Gustave Roussy Institute. Gum cancer, like other cancers of the oral cavity, more often affects men (75% of gum cancer cases) but the incidence of gum cancer is on the rise in women as is the case for all cancers of the oral cavity.

What is the average age of onset of gum cancer?

The average age of this cancer is 62 years old like that of other cancers of the oral cavity. “The proportion of elderly people is greater for gum cancer than for other cancers of the oral cavity. Up to 30% of patients are over 70 years old and women over 70 represent 40% of patients“.

What are the causes of gum cancer?

The primary cause of gum cancer is smoking, the second cause the potentiation of co-consumption of tobacco and alcohol explains Dr. Philippe Gorphe. These risk factors are common to the large “family” of cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract. “Finally, the last cause of gum cancer is a mixture of factors including the aging of the mucous membrane and various genetic predispositionss” informs the ENT surgeon.

What are the symptoms of gum cancer?

The first symptom of gum cancer is constant pain in the gumspain when chewing and swallowing“informs Dr. Philippe Gorphe.”There may be bleeding gums spontaneously; the presence of traces of blood on the pillow upon waking is a typical examplehe describes. The loosening of the teeth is a third symptom. Patients then discover their tumor by looking at their mirror“. The tumor appears in the form of a lesion at the level of a gum, of reddish or whitish color.

The first step is a physical examination by the attending physician and by a head and neck cancer specialist. Examination of the oral cavity allows the tumor to be seen“Informs Dr. Philippe Gorphe. Confirmation of the diagnosis requires a samplecalled biopsy, of the lesion with analysis of its nature. The context of alcohol-tobacco intoxication points strongly towards the cancerous nature. In this context, a closer examination called panendoscopy upper aerodigestive tract will be frequently performed to look for the presence of any other lesions suggestive of cancer, which will also be biopsied. “If the cancerous nature is confirmed, an imaging assessment (scanner and MRI) is performed to assess the extent of the disease“describes the specialist.

If the disease is eligible for curative treatment, which is the case in 90-95% of cases, the classical therapeutic sequence is a surgery of the primary tumor and lymph node areas followed by a post-operative radiotherapyexplains the ENT surgeon. Primary tumor surgery is dependent on local extension. Most of the time, you have to remove the gum with a margin of safety around. Most often is then undertaken gum reconstruction. If the mandibular bone is affected, one can perform interruptive mandibulectomy (cut the jaw) and then reconstruct the jaw“.”If the analysis of the tumor did not show any seriousness factors, the surgical treatment cannot be followed by radiotherapy. If there are serious factors on the contrary, chemotherapy can be added to radiotherapy“says the ENT surgeon.

Prevention to avoid having gum cancer

The first prevention of gum cancer is addiction control :

  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • go see your dentist and doctor regularly

“Finally, we must not hesitate to talk about the symptoms felt without waiting because still too often this disease is discovered at an advanced stage. However, when the diagnosis is made early, we can remove the disease superficially without touching the bone“, informs Dr. Philippe Gorphe.

Thanks to Dr Philippe Gorphe, ENT surgeon in the head and neck oncological surgery department of the Gustave Roussy Institute.