Ulcers: Undercover Enemy


Mouth ulcers are quite common among human beings; they are caused by common cold, seasonal flu, and sometimes mental stress. However, oral ulcers might be an indication of cancer’s presence in the oral cavity. In this article, we try to raise awareness of oral ulcers and discuss the importance of examination and treatment if turned cancerous, as well as maintaining oral hygiene and health.

In Egypt, the incidence rate of people having oral cancer has increased; in every 100,000 persons, there will be 1.4 to 2 people suffering from oral cancer. Diagnosis and intervention at early stage increase the survival rate; unfortunately, this disease starts concealed with little or no pain at all. Until later on, it becomes discovered only during late stages when conservative approaches cannot be applied anymore.

First, we have to differentiate between normal canker sores—shallow ulcers that occur in the lining of the mouth—and ulcers, which have higher risk to turn into malignancy:

  1. Pain: although it is expected that premalignant ulcers might be more painful, actually the opposite is true.
  2. Duration: normal canker sores should take 2–3 weeks to heal completely; if it lasts more than that, then this is your alarm to pay your dentist a visit.
  3. Changes: premalignant ulcers change in size rapidly; it might have alternating red and white spots and it might also bleed when it did not use to.

The main cause of oral cancer is not known yet, but there are many risk factors that might increase the chance of developing the disease. Having a high-risk factor or more does not always mean that the person will definitely get the disease, and many people with no risk factors might get it. These risk factors are:

  1. Smoking and chewing tobacco (major factor).
  2. Alcohol.
  3. A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
  4. Weak immunity.
  5. Sunlight exposure for a prolonged time might lead to lower lip cancer.
  6. Family history.

To conclude, most youth in this era are, unfortunately, exposed to get oral cancer because of the modern lifestyle we are dealing with. In most cases, it is a preventable disease, but there should be proper youth education to reduce the oral cancer burden on the society. Raising awareness and educating youth about signs, symptoms, and risk factors of oral cancer will have a direct impact over the prognosis of identified cases because early diagnosis will lead to better survival rate.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov (1)
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov (2)

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