Jaw cancer may develop in a person’s mandible, which consists of the bones beneath his mouth. Cancer may also develop in a person’s maxilla, which are the bones above his mouth. The cancer that develops in these areas may be limited to the jaw, or it may spread and affect other parts of a person's body. Unfortunately, cancer in the jaw is sometimes mistaken for a benign growth, such as a cyst, and treatment is delayed.
Jaw cancer may develop in either the upper or lower part of the jaw. Once it forms, it has potential to spread to other parts of the jaw or other parts of the body. When cancer of the jaw spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to be metastatic cancer. While all types of cancer are serious, those that spread are more worrisome and often more difficult to treat.
Symptoms of jaw cancer include pain or numbness in the jaw, and a lump or other abnormal growth. Often, jaw cancer is mistaken for another type of condition because its symptoms are so similar to benign issues. For example, a person with jaw pain may think he has a deep cavity that is causing the pain, an infection, or an abscess. Lumps and jaw growths are often mistaken for cysts rather than cancer. This is due to the fact that cysts are commonly found in the jaw.
A medical professional may suspect jaw cancer based on its symptoms, but he cannot diagnose it based on symptoms alone. Instead, a medical professional typically performs a biopsy to diagnose this type of cancer. To perform a biopsy, a medical professional usually removes a sample of the suspicious cells or the entire growth. An individual is usually injected with a numbing agent or sedated during this process, so he is unlikely to feel pain during the biopsy. Once the cells or growths have been extracted, a doctor examines the cells or a sample of the growth to check for the presence of cancer.
The treatment for jaw cancer typically depends on the stage of cancer the patient has, whether or not it has spread, and his overall health. A medical professional may perform surgery to remove the cancerous growth in some cases. A patient may undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment as well.