Male physician with male patient

Audio Blog: Oral Cavity Cancer with Dr. Ranasinghe

Today, we’re talking to otolaryngologist Dr. Ranasinghe. We discuss oral cavity cancer, its symptoms, treatments, why it's important, and honestly, not that scary to see a doctor if you suffer from any oral cavity cancer symptoms yourself.

Shelby Stockton:
Welcome to the Texas ENT audio blog. I'm Shelby Stockton and today I'm talking to otolaryngologist, Dr. Ranasinghe. We discuss oral cavity cancer, its symptoms, treatments, and why it's important and honestly, not that scary to see a doctor if you suffer from any oral cavity cancer symptoms yourself.

Shelby Stockton:
Hi Dr. Ranasinghe, how are you today?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
Hi. Good. How are you?

Shelby Stockton:
Great, thank you so much for taking some time out to talk to me today, specifically about oral cavity cancer.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
You're welcome. Happy to join.

Shelby Stockton:
Yes, please. And so I have some questions, so first of all, what exactly is oral cavity cancer?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
So oral cavity cancer, is kind of a broad category of any cancer in the mouth, lips, tongue, gums, including the upper and lower jaw bones.

Shelby Stockton:
What's the different ways you can get that?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
So lot of different risk factors. Some people just have a higher predisposition for developing these pre-cancerous lesions that if left alone can, the cells will develop into cancer cells.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
Other risk factors that you think about, some of the big ones would be tobacco use, smoking, or also smokeless tobacco and then heavy alcohol use in concert with tobacco use can increase your risk of some of this malignant transformation.

Shelby Stockton:
Oh, that's very interesting. When you talk about smokeless tobacco, is it specifically like a dip or is that also vaping?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
So vaping is relatively newer to market, so there's not as much good data about that. But specifically, like you mentioned with dipping, we've seen that people who use that, you have something that's directly coming in contact with your oral cavity mucosa. And so then that can directly cause oral cavity cancer from our previous experience.

Shelby Stockton:
Right. Right. And what would some of the symptoms be that someone would need to look out for to maybe come see you?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
Yeah. So kind of early signs and symptoms would be if someone's having pain, bleeding, they notice a mass.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
A lot of times, the way this is initially noted is someone will just say that they have a sore spot in their mouth that just doesn't go away. Something like a canker sore should resolve within a couple of days to weeks. But if you're having something that's persistent, you feel like it's getting bigger, causing a tremendous amount of pain, those would be some of the early symptoms.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
And then, some, a little bit later symptoms that definitely warrant further examination as well would be if someone has a mass in their mouth, if they're noting limited tongue movement.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
As it really progresses, you can even have things that grow through the skin from the mouth out onto the face. That would really be more advanced, but in some cases that can be what drives people to finally seek care.

Shelby Stockton:
Right. And if someone does get this diagnosis, what's the treatment like?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
So oral cavity cancer is typically going to be treated first line with surgery with the specific surgery dictated a little bit by the size and the location of their cancer. Typically, chemotherapy and radiation are used as more of an adjunct to surgery, as opposed to the first line treatment

Shelby Stockton:
Is the survival rate for oral cavity cancer pretty high?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
Yes. So it depends a little bit based on the stage or presentation, as well as the subsite within the oral cavity. But patients with early stage oral cavity cancer usually do very well in terms of their longterm survival.

Shelby Stockton:
Fantastic. So if somebody is listening to this and they realize after they heard some of the symptoms that, that might be them, I'm sure they might be very nervous to come in and get a consultation from you and see you. What would you say to them to help quell those nerves?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
So even going in to see your primary care doctor, someone you're more familiar with and have a relationship with just so that they can take a look and tell you if something looks like it warrants further evaluation. Not everything that's causing pain or bleeding in your mouth is going to be cancer.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
But I think it's better to get checked out than to potentially ignore something just because you're worried about what it might be.

Shelby Stockton:
Right. That's really good advice, seeking a doctor that you know first. That's great. Well, thank you so much.

Shelby Stockton:
Is there anything else you'd like to allow about oral cavity cancer?

Dr. Ranasinghe:
No, I think, we're seeing just as a society, we're starting to recognize the risks of tobacco use and the oral cavity cancer risks specifically. And so as we continue to encourage smoking cessation and tobacco cessation, I think that'll be really important to decrease the incidence of oral cavity cancer.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
I would be very happy if there was no more oral cavity cancer. So everything we can do to limit this from developing, I think is a step in the right direction.

Shelby Stockton:
That's fantastic. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Ranasinghe:
All right. Thank you for having me.


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