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Oral Cancer: Cancers of the mouth and pharynx

Cancers of the mouth and pharynx: What is it?

Cancers of the mouth can affect the floor of the mouth, tongue, palate, cheeks, gums and lips. The pharynx is divided into three parts: nose (or nose) pharynx (soft palate, nasal cavity), the oropharynx (base of tongue, soft palate, tonsils) and hypopharynx (behind the larynx).

Cancers of the pharynx in turn affect the nasal cavity, soft palate, the base of the tongue or tonsils. The pharynx is indeed based the tube that connects the mouth to the esophagus. He is involved in swallowing and breathing.

Cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in figures

Nearly 12,300 new cases of cancer of the mouth and pharynx are diagnosed each year. The most common are those of the oropharynx (including the base of the tongue, the soft palate and tonsils), with 6000 cases per year.

These cancers account for 3.8% of all cancers. In 78% of cases, they affect men. By its frequency, they are the fourth most common cancer in men and the 11th most common cancer in women. They kill about 4,000 people a year.

When we add the cancers of the mouth and pharynx cancers of the larynx, they form the group of canc ers upper aerodigestive tract (UADT), and arrive at 4th in the incidence in men with 12 773 cases per and 5th year for mortality with 4,515 deaths per year.

What are the risk factors?

Tobacco and alcohol are the main risk factors for cancers of the oral cavity and throat. Alcohol increases the harmful effects of tobacco facilitating the penetration of carcinogens present in smoke.

Occupational exposure to carcinogens such as wood dust, asbestos or oil also increases the risk of developing this type of cancer.

Trauma and chronic lesions of the oral mucosa and certain viral infections (human papillomavirus and Epstein-Barr virus) are other risk factors.
What can be the signs?

Early symptoms of cancer of the mouth and throat are to many and unspecific. A sore in the mouth, a whitish lesion and / or red that will not heal, a sore throat, hoarseness or voice changes that persist are symptoms that should lead to visit. Persistent discomfort when swallowing, swelling lymph node in the neck are other warning signs.

What treatments for cancer of the mouth and pharynx?

The treatment of cancer of the mouth and pharynx depends on the location and extent of the tumor.
Surgery caters to many tumors limited. It is the treatment of choice for cancers of the oral cavity. Besides the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue, the surgeon removes nearby lymph nodes often. It is also sometimes required to ablate an important organ in the social life as vocal cords, a jawbone and part of the face. It can also be caused to perform a tracheotomy: the patient breathes through a tube then implanted into his windpipe. He can not speak "normally", but may learn to speak through an implant and / or rehabilitation.

- Chemotherapy involves the administration of antitumor drugs (one drug or several in combination). Drugs diffuse throughout the body, which helps to address not only the primary tumor localized in the mouth or pharynx, but also cells that are eventually escaped and could lead to the development of metastases. Administered before surgery (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy can avoid mutilating surgery too.

- Radiation therapy uses radiation to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and induce their destruction. The latest techniques (such conformational radiotherapy with IMRT) allows to preserve the maximum healthy tissue. Radiation therapy may be used alone or combined with surgery or chemotherapy.

A new weapon against cancer: targeted therapy

Conventional chemotherapies attack not only cancer cells, but also some healthy cells in the body of patients. This is why these treatments are associated with many side effects. Targeted therapies based on the use of new antitumor agents whose action is much more precise: they target tumor cells specifically. One of these new drugs, cetuximab is indicated for the treatment of cancers of the head and neck. Associated with radiotherapy, it can delay the progression of these cancers.

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