Clinical features of oral cancer

08 Jul 2013

Oral cancer (OC) is a major cause of global morbidity and mortality. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for more than 90% of oral malignancies and occurs most frequently in middle-aged to elderly patients who smoke and drink heavily. The overall outlook for patients diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) remains poor, largely due to late clinical presentation. Early lesions are frequently undetected due to the lack of accompanying symptoms. Early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of OSCC significantly enhance patient survival and minimise the need for extensive surgery. It is thus essential that the oral health care worker (OHW) be familiar with the variable clinical manifestations of both potentially malignant disorders (PMD) as well as invasive malignancy. OC screening, particularly in high-risk patients should be an integral component of routine intra-oral clinical examination. The aim of this article is to highlight the varied clinical appearance of OC and to emphasise the importance of early recognition and diagnosis.