VELLORE: At the free oral screening camp organized by the Christian Medical College hospital on the occasion of the World Head and Neck Cancer Day at its campus on Monday, visitors learned that around 4,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year in Tamil Nadu despite a ban on the manufacture, storage and sale of gutka and paan masala since May 2013.
Head and neck cancer is now the second-most common cancer in Tamil Nadu, next to lung cancer with young men increasingly taking up the consumption of tobacco products.
The camp, jointly organized by the departments of Head and Neck Surgery, Radiotherapy, ENT and Dental was organised to create public awareness about the harmful effects of chewable tobacco.
Noted Head and Neck Surgeon, Dr Rajinikanth, said the camp will also educate people to develop healthy habits and give up bad habits thus preventing the possibility of contracting cancer and the early diagnosis support and treatment of cancer.
According to him, Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) is one of the leading causes of death and disability in many parts of the world including India, affecting people in a productive age group. This is preventable.
While the States of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Mizoram, West Bengal and Delhi have banned tobacco products, in India, almost 60-70 per cent of head and neck cancer patients get treated only when it is in its advanced stages,because of a delay in diagnosis.
Early signs of oral cancer is the presence of a non-healing mouth ulcer, sudden loosening of tooth with dentures not fitting, change in voice, difficulty in swallowing and a lump in the neck. Oral cancer would include cancer of the lip, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth (collectively called as oral cancer), tonsils, throat, voice box and salivary glands. Smokeless tobacco, such as gutka or paan, is a major cause of oral cancer in India and Southeast Asia.
Dr Arun Paul, department of Dental and Oral Surgery, said that betel-nut chewing leads to oral cancer, the areca nut being classified as a group one carcinogen (cancer causing agent) by the World Health Organisation.
In a small subset of patients diagnosed with cancer of the tongue, especially those who have no risk factors, a sharp tooth has been found to be the cause of cancer, due to wounds caused by repeated irritation.
Both Rajnikanth and Paul emphasised that these types of cancers are largely preventable and can be cured almost completely if diagnosed at an early stage through screening programs. The treatment at the early stage is surgery or radiotherapy.
At the advanced stage, it is usually surgery followed by radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy. It involves consultation with a range of specialists, including head and neck oncosurgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, dentist, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists.