November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, a charity campaign that aims to raise awareness and strives to make a difference by saving thousands of lives through early detection and prevention. We at Sea Street Dental are passionate about preventing and spotting early signs of mouth cancer as well as educating our patients in the causes and symptoms of the cancer.
Mouth cancer is the 6th most common cancer in the world, however it’s much less common in the UK. 8,300 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK. Sadly, this number has increased by more than a third in the last 10 years, however, if mouth cancer is detected early then the chances of a full recovery are good.
Who can be affected by mouth cancer?
Men are more likely to get mouth cancer than women. More than 2 in 3 cases of mouth cancer develop in adults over the age of 55, however it can develop in younger adults. HPV infection is thought to be linked with the most mouth cancers cases.
What causes mouth cancer?
Although mouth cancer can affect anybody, around 91% of all diagnoses are linked to lifestyle. Most of the cases are linked to tobacco and drinking. Smokers are 3x more likely to develop mouth cancer, as the thousands of chemicals contained in each cigarette can damage cells in the mouth and turn them cancerous.
Drinking alcohol excessively is another major risk factor, however, those who smoke and drink excessively, are 30x more at risk of developing the cancer.
An overexposure to sunlight can also be responsible, affecting the lips, and there is also growing evidence that suggests that an increasing number of cases are caused by HPV (sexually transmitted infection) in the mouth.
What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
Symptoms include but aren’t limited to:
- Mouth ulcers that do not heal within several weeks
- Lumps in the mouth or the neck that do not go away
- Red and white patches on the tongue or mouth
- Unexplained, persistent numbness on the lip or tongue
- A swelling in the mouth that doesn’t go away after 3 weeks
- A persistent sore throat
- Changes in speech, such as a lisp
How can I spot the signs of mouth cancer?
If mouth cancer is detected early, then the chances of a cure are good. Take 5 minutes to check your mouth with a small mirror every 3 weeks or so and if you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure to visit your dentist or doctor.
Why are regular dental check-ups important?
We screen your mouth thoroughly for early signs of mouth cancer at every check-up is another key reason to have regular dental check-ups. A full check-up should involve an examination of the inside of your mouth and tongue, as well as your neck and underneath your jaw.