Buccal Cancer

Causes, Signs & Symptoms

Causes of Buccal Cancer 

When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, it is common to wonder why. However, there is not always a clear answer to this question. Currently, doctors are not able to definitively determine what may cause buccal cancer. It’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors. However, listed below are a few known risk factors for developing buccal cancer.

  • Tobacco
    This is by far the most common risk factor for buccal cancer. The use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco substantially increases the chance of developing buccal cancer. 
  • Alcohol
    Excessive alcohol consumption shows a strong association with the onset of oral squamous cell cancers. Moreover, smoking and drinking heavily more than doubles this cancer risk.
  • Betel nut
    The seed of the areca tree is often chewed by people from Southeast Asia and is known to cause buccal cancer. 

Factors Associated with Developing Buccal Cancer

  • Marijuana use 
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Viruses
  • Poor nutrition
  • Genetic Factors

Signs & Symptoms

Unlike other cancers of the head and neck, buccal cancers can typically be seen or felt as an abnormality by a patient or by a dentist or doctor. Symptoms to watch for include: 

  • Painful sores or ulcers in the mouth.
    Most commonly, buccal cancer starts as a painful sore or ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal after a few weeks. 
  • A patch in the mouth.
    Patches in the mouth are most commonly either red (erythroplakia) or white (leukoplakia). Red patches are more likely to be cancer than white patches; however, any patch in the mouth that does not go away after several weeks should be biopsied by a specialist. 
  • Recurrent bleeding from the mouth.
    Growths in the mouth that are cancer tend to bleed easily when accidentally scraped while brushing teeth or eating certain foods. 
  • Bad breath.
    As cancers grow larger, dead cells within the tumor (necrotic cancer) lead to a bad smell from the mouth (halitosis). 

In some cases, the first sign of buccal cancer could be a lump in the neck. This means that the tumor has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. However, in buccal cancers, the primary cancer in the mouth is usually noticed before it reaches these lymph nodes.

Additional Symptoms

  • Loose teeth or dentures that don’t fit correctly.
    This occurs if the tumor invades the tooth sockets or the bones in which the teeth are rooted. 
  • Difficulty opening the mouth (trismus).
    This can happen if the cancer gets into any of the muscles that help to open and close the mouth. 
  • Numbness (i.e. in the lower teeth or lower lip/chin area).
    This means that the cancer cells have invaded the nerves that control the ability to feel. 
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing.
    This can happen when tumors become large and get in the way of eating or involve the muscles and nerves of swallowing. 

It is important to note that a patient could have one or more of these symptoms and NOT have buccal cancer. There are several non-cancerous causes, which result in the same symptoms. That’s why it’s especially important to see a doctor.