November 27, 2022

Bleeding gums when brushing should not be ignored especially when it is recurring, a specialist on head and neck cancer said.

According to Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center head and neck surgical oncologist Sherwin Biasura, bleeding in the gums, which are often dismissed as an occurrence due to vigorous brushing, is one of the symptoms of oral cavity cancer. 

“Magtaka kayo na sa tuwing nagsisipilyo kayo may pagdurugo sa gilagid,” Biasura said and advised the public to seek immediate consult when they notice symptoms.

Biasura said he had patients who thought that they simply had bleeding gums so they first consult a dentist. Upon examination, it turns out that there are also tumors in the mouth, he said.

“Dentists ang nagre-refer sa amin na bukod sa pagdurugo, may bukol na pala (somewhere in the oral cavity),” Biasura said.

Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that includes tumors in several areas above the clavicle or collar bone. Head and neck cancers include the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, ears, thyroid, and lymph nodes in the neck.

Factors that may cause head and neck cancer are smoking, snuffing or snorting, chewing momma, inhalation of asbestos, chromium, nickel, arsenic, formaldehyde, and alcohol abuse.

Other factors are exposure to ionizing radiation, Plummer Vinson Syndrome, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a type of human herpes virus, and the human pappiloma virus (HPV).

EBV can be spread by saliva through kissing, sharing drinks, food, and toothbrushes, and HPV can be spread via oral sex.

Symptoms of head and neck cancer include presence of white or red patch in the mouth, swelling of the jaw, unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth, blocked sinuses, chronic sinus infections, epistaxis or acute bleeding from the nostril, nasal cavity, or nasopharynx, frequent headaches, eye problems, pain in the nasal cavity and sinuses, swelling, numbness, and pain in the salivary glands, difficulty in swallowing, pain when swallowing, difficulty of breathing, hoarseness, and multiple neck masses.

To prevent head and neck cancer, the Philippine Society of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery Inc. and the Academy for Head and Neck Oncology of the Philippines advised the public not to smoke or stop smoking, eat a well-balanced diet, use sunscreen or lip balm, maintain good oral hygiene, and practice protected sex. – Rimaliza A. Opiña