The great terror of oral cancer

By Dr Sumaiya Hasan

COVID-19 has undoubtedly gripped the entire world. However, let’s not forget the dark shadows of a few other diseases, which have been successfully lurking for years now, despite healthcare organisations’ continuous efforts and reminders regarding prevention from healthcare professionals. One such disease which haunts humankind is oral cancer.

The alarming figures of oral cancer

If we talk about the incidence of oral cancer, the figures are alarming. According to the WHO, there are an estimated 657,000 new cancer cases of oral cavity and pharynx each year. The situation does not end here. The mortality rate due to this threatening disease is also high, and as stated in the figures by the WHO, are more than 330,000 deaths. While much has already been contributed by scholars, practitioners, surgeons, and health associations, one is forced to ponder why this serial killer, oral cancer, is still on the prowl.

Where Does Pakistan Stand? 

Oral cancer-related facts and figures are a question for the dental community worldwide, but these figures are a challenge for Pakistan Dental Community. According to the 2018 summary statistics by the Global Cancer Observatory, oral cancer makes 10.9% of all cancers in both genders in Pakistan. Therefore, one is compelled to ask where the efforts must be targeted.

Smokeless and Smoked Tobacco

Oral cancer is primarily associated with too prevalent chewing habits. The most popular of these chewing products are ‘paan’, chaalia’ and ‘tambaku’. There are several methods to prepare these products; nevertheless, tobacco is the prime ingredient in most of them. When users combined these ingredients, the issue is further magnified. But we cannot deny the fact that both smoked and smokeless tobacco are toxic.

Re-emphasising Preventive Strategies

 Modifying or avoiding the risk factors can help prevent oral cancer. Avoiding tobacco is pivotal. However, general public still manages to put hands on tobacco without any restraints. The Government’s role is essential here and may help in reducing the burden of disease.

Being a developing country, Pakistan has a significant ratio of its population is illiterate. People mostly don’t have a thorough understanding pertaining to the harms of this poison. Hence it is not easy to convince them to give up this toxin. Moreover, people are unable to access dental facilities. However, several organisations are voluntarily performing the job of screening and educating the masses in various regions of the country. But, in actual Government should conduct these steps to maintain consistency, continuity, and follow-ups.


To sum up, the literature is currently super-saturated with oral cancer. However, authorities need to take many actions to limit the disease. Authorities should implement and strengthen established preventive strategies. They should avoid coming up with fancy preventive measures, few of which may not be applicable in developing parts of the world. The effort must be collective. The educated masses must not merely celebrate the privilege of their intellect but consider it their responsibility and participate in clearing the dark clouds of terror – the terror of oral cancer!

The author is contributing writer at Dental News Pakistan and can be reached at

November 7, 2020

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