How much do you know about mouth cancer?
Did you know mouth cancer affects over 6,800 people in the UK every year?
According to the NHS, mouth cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer globally1.
This article outlines symptoms, treatments and things you can do to prevent mouth cancer.
What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer (also known as oral cancer) is when a tumour develops anywhere in the mouth including the tongue, roof of the mouth, lips or gums. Less often, tumours can also occur in the throat, saliva glands, or at the back of the mouth.
How common is it?
Roughly 6,800 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK, accounting for 2% of all UK cancers2. It’s most likely to affect men over the age of 55, or those who heavily drink and smoke.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms to look out for are:
- Mouth ulcers which don’t go away after three weeks or begin to bleed
- Discomfort or numbness in the mouth which won’t go away
- Red or white patches in the mouth and/or throat
- Continuous bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth or on the neck
- Difficulty with speech or a change in voice
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit your dentist to get them checked out. Although your symptoms may not mean you have cancer, it’s still important that your dentist takes a look as they can spot any potential warning signs.
What increases the risks of mouth cancer?
Those who drink and smoke heavily have an increased risk of mouth cancer. Every year, consuming too much alcohol is the cause for 3% of cancers in the UK3.
Some types of HPV, a common virus passed through sexual contact, can also increase your risk of mouth cancer.
What can I do to prevent mouth cancer?
- Make sure to attend regular check-ups with your dentist. Did you know they look for common symptoms of mouth cancer as part of your general check-up?
- Stop smoking. This won’t only decrease your risk of mouth cancer, but also gum disease and other types of cancer too
- Cut down your alcohol consumption, ensuring you don’t exceed the 14 units per week advised by the NHS
- Ensure you keep a healthy mouth by brushing your teeth twice a day and seeing the hygienist regularly
How do you treat mouth cancer?
Treatments for mouth cancer differ depending on many factors including the location of the tumour, if it has spread and the type of cancer. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Is mouth cancer curable?
Mouth cancer can be cured, depending on the type of cancer, which part of the mouth is affected, whether it’s spread and how early it’s diagnosed. The prognosis varies depending on these factors.
The NHS states, “If mouth cancer is diagnosed early, a complete cure is often possible in up to 90% of cases using surgery alone.
“Overall around 60% of people with mouth cancer will live at least five years after their diagnosis, and many will live much longer without the cancer returning.”
If you spot any of the symptoms of mouth cancer, make sure to book an appointment with your dentist. Find your nearest Bupa Dental Care practice here.
[1+ 2]: NHS UK- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mouth-cancer/