Carcinoma of the gingiva constitutes an extremely important group of cancers. The similarity of early cancerous lesions of the gingiva to common dental infections has frequently led to delay in diagnosis or even misdiagnosis. Hence institution of treatment has been delayed, and the ultimate prognosis of the patient is poorer.
Approximately 10% of all malignant tumors of the oral cavity occur on the gingiva. This is essentially a disease of elderly persons, since only 2% of the tumors occurred in patients under the age of 40 years. It is more common in men than women.
Gum Cancer Causes
The exact cause of gum cancer is not known. However several risk factors are known to cause gum cancer. A number of factors increase the risk of developing gum cancer. Not all the people with risk factors will get gum cancer.
- Smoking or use of other tobacco products
- Alcohol consumption
- Chronic irritation of the mouth
- Diet low in vegetables and fruits
- Human papilloma virus infection
- Poor oral hygiene
- Occasionally, cases of gingival cancer appear to arise after extraction of a tooth. An unusual situation arises in some instances after extraction of a tooth in that a carcinoma appears to develop rapidly and proliferate up out of the socket.
Gum Cancer Symptoms
Carcinoma of the gingiva usually is manifested initially as an area of ulceration which may be a purely erosive lesion or may exhibit an exophytic, granular verrucous type of growth. Many times, carcinoma of the gingiva does not does not have the clinical appearance of a malignant neoplasm.
- Sore/lesion on the gums that does not heal within 2 weeks. This lesion can bleed easily
- Painful/painless lump on the gums
- The tumor arises more commonly in edentulous areas although it may develop in a site in which teeth are present
- The fixed gingiva is more frequently involved than the free gingiva
- Thickening or discolored lump on the gums
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Problem with speaking and chewing
- Swollen lymph nodes especially in the neck
- Altered sense of taste
- Unintended weight loss
In the maxilla, gingival carcinoma often invades into the maxillary sinus, or it may extend onto the palate or into the tonsillar pillar. In the mandible, extension into the floor of the mouth or laterally into the cheek as well as deep into the bone is rather common. Metastasis is a common sequel of gum cancer. Cancer of the mandibular gingiva metastasizes more frequently than cancer of the maxillary gingiva.
Gum Cancer Treatment
Gum cancer is most treatable and curable if caught in the earliest stage of the disease. Gum cancer grows relatively slowly, but untreated and advanced gum cancer can spread into the deeper tissues of the mouth and neck. In advanced stages, gum cancer can spread through the lymph nodes and blood to other parts of the body where the cancer cells can form another cancerous tumor. Gum cancer and other forms of oral cancer have a high risk of recurring after treatment.
Gum cancer treatment includes
- Radiation therapy