More than 700 Malaysians are diagnosed with oral cancer each year.
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A team of Malaysian scientists found human genes which are linked to the growth of oral cancer that could help develop better treatments for the disease.
Researchers from the independent non-profit, Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM), had identified genetic information – such as DNA and RNA – which cancer cells rely on to survive in the body.
Using a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR, the team collected samples from a number of Malaysian oral cancer patients and managed to isolate 918 genes associated with the spread of the disease and other types of cancer.
Their work uncovered certain genetic vulnerabilities in oral cancer cells that could lead to better treatment through “targeted therapies” and aid in future cancer research.
How serious is oral cancer?
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) or oral cancer is a disease which causes abnormal tissue growth or tumours in and around the mouth. It is known to be one of the most common types of cancer suffered by patients from around the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also acknowledge that the disease is particularly serious in parts of Asia due to people’s exposure to risk factors. Health experts determined that unhealthy habits such as smoking, tobacco chewing and excessive drinking can contribute to the development of oral cancer.
The early bird escapes the tumor
Early detection and treatment of oral and other cancers are vital to prevent severe damage or death to a patient.
However, according to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR 2012-2016), most cancer cases in Malaysia are detected way too late – with over 60% of patients already in stage-three or stage-four of the disease.
The registry’s data from 2007 also revealed that over 70% of Malaysian oral cancer patients were diagnosed at late stages due to the lack of public awareness and urgency as well as difficulties to get treatment.
MOH recommends that Malaysians conduct regular Mouth Self Examinations (MRSE) or visit the dentist to get a cancer screening at least once a year to keep your health in check.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer you should look out for;
- Mouth ulcers that won’t heal and lasts more than two-weeks.
- Swelling, lumps or abnormal growth in the mouth or gums
- White (leukoplakia) or red patches (erythroplakia) patches in the mouth.
- Difficulties or pain when chewing, swallowing, talking or moving the jaw and tongue.
- Numbness in the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or a raspy voice lasting more than six-weeks.
- Swelling of the neck or lymph nodes more than three-weeks.
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Continued pain in the ears.
- Abnormal weight gain/loss
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