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Jaw cancer is a cancer that originates in the jawbone. Types of primary jaw cancer are Ewing’s sarcoma, osteosarcoma and malignant giant cell cancer. Incidence of different types of oral cancer has increased in recent years mainly because of poor hygiene habits and excess tobacco usage. Therefore, it is important to recognize symptoms of jaw cancer to help early diagnosis and successful treatment.

Jaw Cancer Introduction

The jaw is an extension of the skull. It includes two bony structures that help to open and close the mouth and support the teeth. Jaw cancer involves formation of an aching lump in the jaw tissue. Cancer in the jaw affects movement of the jaw and restricts opening of the mouth. It tends to spread rapidly to distant organs.

Symptoms of Jaw Cancer

Jaw cancer can cause a lot of discomfort and interferes with normal eating habits. Common symptom of jaw cancer includes difficulty eating and drinking due to acute pain in the jaw. Pain may be intense and radiate to the neck or other parts of the face.

Apart from pain, the affected individual also experiences swelling of the jaw.  Tingling sensation may be present along the jaw line. This symptom is present when the jaw is not moving such as during sleep. Unexplained numbness in the jaw also accompanies jaw cancer.

Jaw cancer causes a noticeable mass in the jaw that causes pain. The jaw tissue also becomes painfully swollen. Oral examination may reveal presence of abnormal growth of the jaw bone and x-ray test shows irregular borders of the jaw. Tooth loosening and bad breath are also symptoms of jaw cancer.

Diagnosis of Jaw Cancer

To diagnose jaw cancer a dentist will perform routine dental exam along with oral cancer screening exam. The dentist will check for the presence of lumps or abnormal changes in the head, neck, face and oral cavity. The presence of sore tissue and other symptoms mentioned above may help in diagnosis too. Oral brush biopsy is used to confirm the diagnosis. It involves taking a small sample of the jaw tissue to be analyzed under a microscope for cancer cells. 

Treatment for Jaw Cancer

Jaw cancer is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Surgery is used to remove the tumor. However, surgical treatment is effective only if the cancer has not spread to other organs. Chemotherapy involves use of drugs injected through veins to destroy cancerous cells and relieve the pain. Radiation therapy involves use of high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and stop spreading of the cancer.

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