Gum cancer is a cancer that involves the area of the mouth that supports the teeth. This particular type of cancer is also known as gingival cancer. In normal progression the cells will become larger and then divide. These dividing cells make new cells.
When the cells reach maturity they expire making way for new cell formation. When there is a disturbance in this pattern and the old cells fail to die, a tissue mass, known as a tumor, will form. Sometimes these tumors will be benign and not cause a problem with the only treatment being removal. If these tumors are malignant, however, this will pose a possible danger that might even become fatal. Malignant tumors can spread to various areas of the body causing damage.
Gum cancer, or gingival cancer, which is grouped among the oral cancers, will most commonly start in the tongue region and make its way to the gum area. Oral cancer is typically a squamous cell cancer or carcinoma. The metastasizing or spreading of cancer in this area will generally follow the path of the lymphatic system. The lymph system connects the body with a clear fluid that serves several purposes. However, because it is connected throughout the body, it can also carry cancer cells which can grow in sites away from the primary tumor.
The symptoms that are notably involved in gingival cancer or gum cancer are a mass or lump in the gums, pain, ulcers, swelling, and/or bleeding. Diagnosis is made through laboratory testing and x-rays.
The risk factors for developing gum cancer are the use of tobacco. The risk is increased if the tobacco user is also an alcohol user. Excessive sun exposure and age will increase the risks as well.
Treatment for gum cancer or any oral cancer involves the removal of the lesion itself. This lesion will then be subject to a biopsy. Early detection of gum cancer is essential for the best possible outcome. Removal of the gum affected mass may be all that is required. If more advanced, gum cancer may need to be treated with radiation therapy in addition to removal of the tumor.
Most people are under the impression that gum cancer is not a serious form of cancer. However, the Oral Cancer Foundation claims that someone dies from this type of cancer every hour, every day. They also state that there are over 300,000 new cases of oral cancer each year.
Gum cancer is a treatable form of cancer with positive results if detected early on. The best means of avoiding the risk of gum cancer is through prevention. If you smoke, this is another good reason to quit. If you consume alcohol, go lightly. Do not expose yourself to excessive periods of sunlight without coverage. Your lips need sunscreen as well.
Maintain adequate dental care and regularly visit every 6 months as recommended. Your dentist will note any abnormalities and be on the watch for signs of oral cancer. If you notice any of the above symptoms see your dentist immediately.
American Cancer Society: Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer
NHS Choices: Nicotine Gum Cancer
MayoCancer: Mouth Cancer
Cleveland Clinic: Oral Cancer