Muhammad Faid started smoking at age 17 and smoked five sticks a day with his friends. He is now 24 and is one of the youngest patients in Malaysia to have been diagnosed with oral cancer.
He is now undergoing chemotherapy at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL). Although the cause of the cancer was not known, doctors say most oral cavity cancer (or oral cancer) patients they see are smokers.
Faid, a third-year university student in education, said he first had an ulcer on the left side of his tongue but did not pay attention to it as it was painless.
His mother, who only wanted to be known as Anita, 52, said the wound which appeared early last year did not go away. In November, a biopsy found it to be cancerous.
Between November and May, he suffered bleeding four times and there was a cavity in the tongue, she said.
The cancer was in Stage I and II in February but by May, it was Stage III and doctors had to remove three-quarters of his tongue on May 17, she said.
Doctors had to reconstruct his tongue with a skin graft from his thigh and Muhammad Faid can now speak a little. He cannot eat yet and feeding is done through a tube while a hole has been made in his trachea (windpipe) for him to breathe.
Another patient, who declined to be named, said she first discovered a tiny lump inside her cheek in March.
“It was like a small pimple but by May it grew big and went through the skin of my right cheek. It grew very fast,” said the 60-year-old housewife from Johor who was diagnosed with Stage IV oral cancer.
She said she was not aware that chewing betel nut increased cancer risk.
“I have been chewing betel nut every day since I was 13. My mother, who is 83 years old, chewed betel nut all her life but she was fine. I have advised my mother and older sisters to stop chewing betel nut. No one should get this kind of sickness,” said the woman, who has a raw wound the size of a small doughnut on her cheek.