How to prevent and recognise mouth cancer

March 19th, 2019

By Battle Road Dental

Do you know what mouth cancer is and how it can be prevented? Would you be able to recognise the signs and symptoms? Health campaigners are now urging people to urgently improve their knowledge and awareness of deadly disease, after a leading health charity discovered that British adults are risking their lives because of their poor knowledge about the common causes and symptoms of mouth cancer. The Oral Health Foundation is now leading a new Mouthaware campaign to help address the problem.

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth. It may be on the surface of the tongue, the insides of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), or the lips or gums.

Although less common, tumours can also develop in the glands that produce saliva, the tonsils at the back of the mouth, and the part of the throat connecting your mouth to your windpipe (pharynx).

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of mouth cancer, accounting for 9 out of 10 cases. Squamous cells are found in many places around the body, including the inside of the mouth and the skin.

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?

A recent survey conducted by the Oral Health Foundation revealed that just a third (36%) of people in the UK recognise the early warning signs of the mouth cancer.

According to the NHS, important Symptoms of mouth cancer to be aware of include:

  • sore mouth ulcers that don’t heal within several weeks
  • unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth that don’t go away
  • unexplained, persistent lumps in the neck that don’t go away
  • unexplained looseness of teeth, or sockets that don’t heal after extractions
  • unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
  • sometimes, white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue – these can be early signs of cancer, so they should also be investigated
  • changes in speech, such as a lisp

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, adds “Mouth cancer can appear in the mouth, lips, head and neck. Look for mouth ulcers lasting longer than three weeks, red of white patches, or unusual lumps and swellings.”

“If any of these are seen, we should visit a dentist or doctor immediately.”


What causes mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and represents around 2% of cancer cases in the UK. Like other cancers, the causes are extremely varied and sometimes even unknown, however there are some factors that can significantly increase your risk. The most important are:

  • smoking or using other forms of tobacco
  • drinking alcohol – people who drink and smoke heavily have a much higher risk compared with the population at large
  • infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV)

A real concern is that the survey by the Oral Health Foundation found one in three (33%) were not aware that smoking causes mouth cancer while more than half (57%) did not know that alcohol contributes to the disease.

Dr Carter says: “By making a few simple changes to our lifestyle, we can considerably lessen our risk of mouth cancer. Cutting down on alcohol, quitting tobacco and eating healthier, will not only reduce our chance developing mouth cancer but will also provide wider benefits to our general health.”

Can I die from mouth cancer?

Although it represents just 2% of cancers diagnosed in the UK, the Oral Health Foundation feels that too many people are dying as a result of this disease. During the last year, more than 8,300 people have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the United Kingdom, with over 2,700 going on to sadly lose their lives. It one of the fastest-growing cancers in the country, with cases rising by 135% over 20 years, and unlike many other cancers, the survival rate for mouth cancer has barely improved over the last three generations

The NHS reports that most cases of mouth cancer occur in older adults aged 50 to 74, however one in eight (12.5%) cases affect people younger than 50. Men are also more commonly affected.

If you have any concerns about mouth cancer, do not hesitate to get in touch with your team here at Battle Road Dental Practice today. Call now on 01424 713051.




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