In the UK more than 8,300 will be given the news that they have mouth cancer this year and globally there are in excess of 300,000 new cases every year. Mouth cancer diagnosis have increased by over a third in the last decade and it is one of the few cancers that is predicted to see an increase in diagnosis in the coming years.
Mouth cancer can affect anyone. However, it is strongly associated with the age and gender of a person, with mouth cancer more likely to be found in men over 40. Lifestyle is also important with 9 in every 10 cases linked to risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol.
There are 5 key risk factors you should be aware of:
- Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking tobacco and consuming large quantities of alcohol are the two main risk factors for mouth cancer.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted virus, and research now suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.
A poor diet can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. This can be due to a lack of vitamins and minerals.
- Chewing tobacco
Smokeless and chewing tobacco is not a ‘safe’ alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Signs of mouth cancer
There are three signs and symptoms which you should look out for and these include:
- Mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks
- A white or red patch in your mouth
- Unusual lumps in your mouth or around your jaw area
Many of these symptoms can be related to other less serious conditions but it is important that if you experience any of the above that you get it checked out by your dentist or doctor. Survival rates over 5 years for mouth cancer when caught early are very good reaching as high as 90% however this is drastically reduced to just 50% when the diagnosis is made late.
So, if in doubt get it checked out!
When you come in for your routine dental appointment the dentist will ask you a number of lifestyle questions. If you smoke, drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol per week, are over 50 or use chewing or smokeless tobacco these factors can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
The dentist will then perform a methodical examination of your mouth to detect any abnormalities. They will use a mirror to check all the tissue in your mouth including your tongue and the sides of your mouth.
If the dentist finds anything of concern, they will refer you to the local hospital for a specialist to perform a thorough examination of your mouth and throat. If the cells turn out to be cancerous then the consultant will be able to advise on the best course of treatment.
Top tips to ensure that your mouth stays healthy
- Visit your dentist for regular appointments so that any problems can be identified early and treated quickly.
- Look out for any red or white patches or ulcers that do not clear up within three weeks
- Ensure you have a full a varied diet, rich in vitamins. Plenty of fruit and vegetables can help the body protect itself from most cancers.
- Cut down on the amount you smoke and drink
- When out in the sun be sure to use a high factor sun cream on your face and neck and a barrier cream on your lips.
If you notice any changes in your mouth or are concerned about anything do not hesitate to call Valley Dental Practice on 01255 220322 to book an appointment. If in doubt get it checked out!