Despite it's popularity with some professional baseball players, chewing tobacco is still not a healthy habit and is a carcinogenic substance, leading to potential complications such as verrucous carcinoma. According to the American Cancer Society, this type of squamous cell carcinoma accounts for less than 5 percent of all oral cancers.
What Is It?
Verrucous carcinoma is a rare type of cancer with external lesions that appear cauliflower-like, typically developing at a site of chronic irritation or inflammation. The oral cavity is the most common site for this type of tumor, as well as other areas such as the larynx, nasal cavity and throat. Smoking and chewing tobacco are significant risk factors for this type of cancer, and alcohol consumption can also compound these effects. The tumors that form in the oral cavity may cause hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and a sore throat.
Inflammation appears to play a role, too, as verrucous carcinoma often develops on sites of chronic inflammation or scarring. Patients with oral ulcerative areas and chronic candidiasis can develop verrucous carcinomas, as well as those who smoke, chew tobacco or consume alcohol and who have poor dental hygiene or ill-fitting dentures.
How It's Treated
Fortunately, the prognosis is good for this type of cancer, and it is curable if diagnosed and treated with the following:
- Surgery to remove the tumor
- Possible radiation therapy
- Eating properly
- Getting plenty of rest.
- Avoid chewing and smoking tobacco
What to Expect
Luckily, this particular carcinoma is slow-growing. Nonetheless, you should visit your dentist if you start noticing this type of growth.
During the oral cancer screening portion of your exam, your dentist can determine if you carry any of these cancerous lesions. No matter what the diagnosis, make sure to follow up with proper oral hygiene at home, too. Using a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, alongside daily flossing, can help you make great oral health a priority — something that affects your overall health, as well.
Above all, avoiding tobacco in any form and at all costs is the most important thing you can do to keep your body healthy and free from advanced disease.
About the author: Diana Tosuni-O'Neill is a licensed registered dental hygienist in New York and New Jersey with over 25 years of clinical experience in dental hygiene practice. She was employed for over 15 years with the team dentist for the sports teams the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Nets and the New Jersey Devils. Diana is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and a Group Fitness Instructor. Her passion for the dental and fitness fields spans over two decades. She is also a freelance writer specializing in oral health care. She enjoys traveling, gardening, decorating and her fitness workouts. Diana presently resides outside Manhattan with her two children.