Cancer of the tongue and oral cavity are the most common forms of mouth cancer, followed then by the throat, lip, neck and other mouth cancers make up the rest of cases.
It is one of the very few cancers that experts predict case numbers will increase in the coming years.
Who can be affected by mouth cancer?
- Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, whether they have their own teeth or not
- Mouth cancers are more common in people over 40 with more cases seen in men than women
- Research shows however that mouth cancer is becoming a more increasing problem in younger patients and women.
- More than 90% of mouth cancers in men and 85% in women are linked to lifestyle choices and environmental factors
Do people die from mouth cancer?
Yes. Nearly 2,500 people in the UK die from mouth cancer every year, more than testicular cancer and cervical cancer combined.
Many of these deaths could be prevented if the cancer was diagnosed early enough.
Early detection for mouth cancer can result in a survival outcome of 90%. However, a delayed diagnosis means survival rates plummet to as little as 42%.
What can cause mouth cancer?
- Two-thirds of mouth cancer cases are linked to smoking tobacco. Smokers put themselves at almost three times higher risk and second-hand smoke significantly increases the risk for those who have never smoked.
- Smokeless tobacco use can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by 15 times. The traditional habits in some cultures of chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutkha and paan are particularly dangerous.
- Drinking alcohol to excess is linked to around a third of all cases and those who smoke and drink to excess put themselves at risk by up to 30 times.
- More than half of cases in the UK are linked to a poor diet.
- Overexposure to sunlight increases the risk of cancer of the lips. from the sun has been linked to cancer of the lip.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) is estimated to overtake smoking as the number one cause of mouth cancers in the future. HPV can be spread through oral sex, and research now suggests that HPV could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.
Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and can affect all parts of the mouth, tongue and lips.
Mouth cancer can appear as a painless mouth ulcer that does not heal normally. A white or red patch in the mouth can also develop into cancer.
Be aware of any unusual lumps in your mouth or jaw area and any persistent hoarseness or difficulty swallowing.
It is important to visit your dentist if you have any of these symptoms that persist for more than 2 weeks.
Your dental check-ups at Black Swan dental spa will always include an oral cancer examination as standard.
What is involved in a full check-up of the mouth?
The inside of your mouth and your tongue will be examined by the dentist and the examination will also look at your neck and underneath your jaw.
It’s also great for you to check your mouth regularly at home and pick up any changes quickly.
Remember, your dental team can see parts of your mouth that you cannot see easily yourself so it’s always best to make sure you have your mouth regularly checked by a professional.
What happens if my dentist finds a problem?
If the dental team find something unusual they will fully assess and photograph the area and refer you immediately to see an oral medicine consultant.
They will carry out a thorough examination of your mouth and throat and may take a small biopsy to examine the area under the microscope.
They may organize further blood tests, x-rays or scans to help decide if any treatment is needed.
There are treatments for mouth cancer but complete cure chances are significantly reduced if the diagnosis is late.
Regular examinations are crucial to ensure any problems are spotted early.
If you are worried or unsure, do not hesitate to get any lumps or ulcers checked out.
How can I try and prevent getting mouth cancer?
- Stop smoking, and cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Avoid other forms of smokeless tobacco
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of getting HPV associated with mouth cancer.
- Visit your dental team regularly as they recommend, usually around every 6 months.
At Smile More Dental Care, we look forward to welcoming you to our North London clinic soon.
Dr Paul Abrahams is the principal dentist at SmileMore and has worked in North London for 21 years providing general and cosmetic dental care.
Dr Paul Abrahams heads up the SmileMore Dental Care team. He qualified at Guys Dental Hospital in 1989, and has undertaken extensive postgraduate studies in cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry since.
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