- Buccal mucosa cancer is a type of oral cancer that affects the inside lining of the cheeks (buccal mucosa)
- This cancer is a subtype of oral cavity cancer, which also includes cancer of the lips, tongue, hard palate, floor of the mouth, and gums
- The most common type of buccal mucosa cancer is squamous cell carcinoma
- Tobacco and alcohol use are significant risk factors
- Early detection is key to improving the chances of successful treatment and prognosis
What is Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
Buccal mucosa cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the mucosal lining of the inner cheeks, which is called the buccal mucosa. This part of the mouth is responsible for protecting the inside of the cheeks and contributes to the process of eating and speaking. The cancer can begin as a small lump or a white or red patch in the mouth that gradually increases in size. Like other types of oral cancer, buccal mucosa cancer can spread to other parts of the mouth and body if left untreated. It is crucial to detect and treat buccal mucosa cancer early to prevent its spread and to improve the chances of a successful outcome.
What are the Types of Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: The most common type of buccal mucosa cancer, comprising over 90% of cases. This cancer affects the squamous cells lining the buccal mucosa.
- Minor Salivary Gland Carcinomas: This includes several types of cancer that originate in the salivary glands located in the buccal mucosa.
- Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma: This is a rare form of cancer that can occur in the buccal mucosa, affecting the salivary glands.
- Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma: Another rare type, this affects the glands that produce saliva in the buccal mucosa.
How Common is Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
The prevalence of buccal mucosa cancer varies geographically and is influenced by lifestyle factors. In Western countries, this cancer represents a smaller proportion of oral cancers. However, in South Asian countries, particularly India, buccal mucosa cancer is more common due to the widespread use of tobacco, betel quid, and areca nut, which are significant risk factors.
In the United States, buccal mucosa cancer accounts for about 10% of cancers of the oral cavity. The incidence has been relatively stable, but a slight increase in cases has been observed, possibly due to the rise in human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers.
It is essential to note that buccal mucosa cancer can affect individuals of all ages, but it is more commonly diagnosed in older adults. It is also slightly more common in men compared to women.
What are the Symptoms of Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
The symptoms of buccal mucosa cancer can be subtle initially and may resemble other oral conditions.
The common symptoms include:
- A persistent sore, lump, or ulcer inside the cheek that does not heal
- White or red patches inside the mouth
- Pain or discomfort in the mouth, cheek, or jaw area
- Difficulty or pain while chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Bleeding inside the mouth without any apparent cause
- Loose teeth or a change in the way dentures fit
- Swelling of the cheek
- Numbness in the mouth or face
- A persistent earache
It’s important to note that some of these symptoms may also be indicative of less severe conditions, but it is always recommended to seek a healthcare provider’s advice for a proper diagnosis.
What Causes Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
Several factors contribute to the development of buccal mucosa cancer.
- Tobacco Use: Chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes increases the risk of buccal mucosa cancer.
- Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol use, especially in combination with tobacco, raises the risk.
- Betel Quid and Areca Nut Chewing: Popular in certain Asian countries, chewing these substances is a significant risk factor.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: Certain strains of HPV, especially HPV 16, are known to cause oral cancers, including buccal mucosa cancer.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Lack of proper oral care can contribute to the development of this cancer.
- Genetic Factors: A family history of oral cancer can increase the risk.
- Exposure to UV Radiation: Excessive sun exposure is a risk factor for lip cancer, and potentially other oral cancers.
- Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables may be linked to an increased risk of oral cancers.
How is Buccal Mucosa Cancer Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of buccal mucosa cancer typically involves multiple steps:
- Medical History and Physical Examination: The healthcare provider will ask about symptoms, lifestyle, tobacco and alcohol use, and family history of cancer. They will also conduct a thorough examination of the mouth and neck.
- Biopsy: If a suspicious lesion is found, a biopsy is performed where a small tissue sample is taken from the area for examination under a microscope. This is essential for confirming the presence of cancer cells.
- Imaging Tests: If cancer is confirmed, imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans may be used to determine the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
- Endoscopy: In some cases, an endoscope may be used to examine the throat and other parts of the oral cavity more closely.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will discuss the stage of cancer and the appropriate treatment options. In the next section, we will discuss the treatment options and preventive measures for buccal mucosa cancer.
What are the Grades and Stages of Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
Grades of Buccal Mucosa Cancer
The grade of buccal mucosa cancer refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. The grade gives an idea of how quickly the cancer may grow and spread.
There are usually three grades:
- Grade 1 (well-differentiated): The cancer cells look more like normal cells and usually grow and spread more slowly.
- Grade 2 (moderately differentiated): The cancer cells look somewhat abnormal and are likely to grow and spread at a moderate rate.
- Grade 3 (poorly differentiated): The cancer cells look very abnormal and tend to grow and spread more quickly.
Stages of Buccal Mucosa Cancer
Staging describes the size of cancer and how far it has spread. The TNM staging system is usually used:
- T (Tumor): Describes the size of the tumor.
- N (Nodes): Describes whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- M (Metastasis): Describes whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
The stages range from 0 to 4. Stage 0 is used for early cancer that is only in the layers of cells lining the buccal mucosa. Stage 4 indicates advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
How is Buccal Mucosa Cancer Treated?
Treatment for buccal mucosa cancer depends on the stage and grade of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Common treatments include:
- Surgery: This is the most common treatment. It involves removing the tumor along with some surrounding healthy tissue. In advanced cases, parts of the jaw or cheek may need to be removed.
- Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It can be used before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: This involves using drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It can be used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.
- Targeted Therapy: This newer form of treatment targets specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment helps to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer.
How Can I Prevent Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
While not all cases of buccal mucosa cancer can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Tobacco and Alcohol: Avoid using tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption.
- Oral Hygiene: Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly.
- Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Sun Protection: Protect your lips from the sun by using a lip balm with sunscreen and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- HPV Vaccination: Get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations and to address any issues early on.
By being proactive about your oral health and making lifestyle changes where necessary, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing buccal mucosa cancer.
What is the Prognosis for Buccal Mucosa Cancer?
The prognosis for buccal mucosa cancer varies depending on several factors including the stage and grade of the cancer at diagnosis, the patient’s overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment.
- Early Detection: Patients with early-stage buccal mucosa cancer that is localized have a better prognosis compared to those with advanced-stage cancer. Early detection and treatment are key to improving outcomes.
- Five-Year Survival Rate: The five-year survival rate is often used to discuss the prognosis of cancer. For buccal mucosa cancer, the five-year survival rate is higher for localized stages but decreases significantly if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Individual Factors: The patient’s age, general health, and response to treatment also play a significant role in the prognosis.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider?
It’s important to be proactive about your oral health. You should see your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms that might indicate buccal mucosa cancer or another oral health issue:
- A sore in the mouth that does not heal
- A lump or thickening in the cheek
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- A sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty or discomfort when chewing or swallowing
- Swelling of the jaw
- Pain in the mouth or ear
- Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth
Buccal mucosa cancer is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. The prognosis for this type of cancer is significantly better when it is detected and treated early. It is essential to maintain good oral hygiene, avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol use, and see a healthcare provider regularly for dental check-ups. If you experience any symptoms or signs that could be indicative of buccal mucosa cancer, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider without delay. Being vigilant and proactive in the management of your oral health can lead to earlier detection and more effective treatment options.
This article is complete and was published on July 12, 2023, and last updated on August 25, 2023.