Mouth Cancer Action Month

Every November dentists from all over the nation will campaign to raise awareness of mouth cancer. Supported by the Oral Health Foundation Mouth Cancer Action Month is a much needed campaign.

Although it took the lives off 2,722 British people last year, mouth cancer is unheard of among the majority of the general public. In fact, one in ten people have still not heard of mouth cancer despite 8,302 people diagnosed with the disease over the past year.

With an increase of almost 50% in mouth cancer cases in the last ten years, raising awareness and taking action is critical. More than it ever has been. Here at Revitalise all our dental practitioners are trained to detect signs of mouth cancer and do so on a regular basis. In this blog post we hope to educate you on the symptoms of mouth cancer, what causes it and how you and your loved ones can reduce your risk of developing the disease.

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, sometimes referred to as oral cancer, refers to the growth of a tumour that develops anywhere in the mouth. This can include the lips, gums, tongue, palate (the roof of the mouth) or even the inside of the cheeks. The most common type of mouth cancer is known as Squamous cell carcinoma. Commonly cancers begin in the cells that are flat and thin (squamous cells).

Although not as common, tumours can also develop in the throat, on the tonsils and the glands that produce saliva. Mouth cancer is a serious illness and if diagnosed late can be life threatening.

What causes oral cancer?

It’s not completely understood what causes cells in the mouth to mutate and lead to cancer. However, medical experts have identified a number of circumstances that may increase the risk of developing the disease.

Smoking

Smoking tobacco in the form of cigarettes, cigars or similar can drastically increase your risk of developing oral cancer. 1 in 6 mouth cancers are directly caused by smoking.

Not only does smoking increase your own risk but also increases the risk of those around you. Studies suggest those exposed to secondhand smoke regularly can have a small increase of developing mouth cancer. Did you know that the smoke created from tobacco is made up of around 7,000 chemicals. Over 70 of these have been identified to cause cancer.

What can you do to reduce your risk? We understand how difficult it can be to overcome an addiction but the only realistic option is to quit smoking altogether. It’s reported after 3 – 5 years you are 50 percent less likely to develop oral cancer after you decide to quit smoking. The NHS has a range of resources to help you kick the habit for good.

Tobacco

You might be aware that smokeless and chewing tobacco exists as an alternative to smoking it. However, it is not a safe alternative.

Alcohol

Many people like a drink from time to time. However excessive drinking puts you at a huge risk of developing mouth cancer. In fact 1 in 3 cases of the disease can be linked to excessive drinking. Studies have found that people who had four or more drinks daily were five times more likely to develop cancer compared to those who never drink or drink occasionally.

Combining heavy smoking and drinking puts you at an even higher risk. In fact, the Oral Health Foundation suggests you are 35 times more at risk of developing the deadly disease.

What can you do to reduce your risk? If you are a heavy drinker, cutting back to the weekly recommended limits outlined by the UK Chief Medical Officers is a great place to start. Drink Aware is a great resource to help you find ways to help you cut back.

HPV

If you are one of the few people are aware of mouth cancer, how aware are you that HPV is linked to developing the disease? The sexually transmitted disease, the Human papillomavirus is the most common STD in the world. And it is now being heavily linked to oral cancer. In fact, it’s predicted that it will become the leading cause of the disease in the near future, according to the Oral Health Foundation.

What can you do to reduce your risk? A common misconception around sexually transmitted diseases is you have to have a lot of sexual contact to contract one. However, you can contract an STD the first time you are sexually active. To reduce your risk of contracting HPV and potentially developing cancer is to always practice safe sex.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Symptoms of mouth cancer:

  • Mouth ulcers which are painful for several weeks which don’t heal
  • Lumps in the mouth which can’t be explained and don’t go away
  • Lumps in the neck which can’t be explained and don’t go away
  • Unexplainable bleeding from the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Red or white patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue. In most cases these are not cancerous, however they can be early symptoms of the illness should be investigated

When should I see a doctor?

The symptoms of mouth cancer can be similar and even related to a less serious illnesses. However, they will usually heal within two to three weeks. If they continue to persist beyond two weeks you should visit your GP or dentist. You should not feel like a bother and put off making the visit.

Although unlikely, if your symptoms are cancer related the earlier the illness is diagnosed, the greater your chances of survival. Early diagnosis improves survival rates from 50% to 90%.

Book in for a free consultation

If you are currently experiencing the symptoms of mouth cancer it’s best to get checked. Make an appointment with your GP or book in for a free consultation at Revitalise Dental Centre today.

About the author

Author

Martin Docking is the Founder of Revitalise Dental Centre. Widely recognised as a leading Clinical Dental Technician Martin has a passion for embracing new skills, techniques and materials to deliver the best products, service and patient care.

Connect with Martin Docking on LinkedIn.

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