Mouth Cancer

Mouth Cancer

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Mouth Cancer

Oral cancers of the mouth are aggressive growths that can invade your tongue and roof of the mouth and spread elsewhere in the body. The number of oral cancer cases has increased over the last decade, with around 8,300 people diagnosed each year in the UK alone. The earlier this cancer is detected, the more likely that treatment will be successful. This is why we offer a mouth cancer check during your routine dental check-up.

What are the causes?

Oral cancer is rare in non-smokers. Tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, is nearly always implicated as a cause. Heavy smoking combined with drinking alcohol greatly increases the risk. Cancer of the lips may be caused by sunburn and excessive sun exposure as in other skin cancers.

As with all cancers, in rare cases individuals who do not smoke or drink at all still develop the disease. This likely represents a genetic susceptibility to the disease.

I am concerned – what can I do?

  • Alcohol and tobacco are implicated in most mouth cancers – prevention includes stopping smoking and giving up heavy drinking
  • Recent studies have indicated that all persons can develop mouth cancer, so even healthy, young non-smokers should not be complacent.
  • Early detection is probably the single most important factor, so you need to have your mouth examined regularly.
  • It is wise to get to know your mouth so you can easily spot any unusual changes, which should then be reported to your dentist.

I am concerned – what can the dentist do?

Dentists undergo special training to identify conditions in the mouth, with the visual exam one of the most reliable means of prevention. During your regular examinations, we check for any suspicious lesions and refer any patients with these for further checks in hospital.

We can also offer advice related to your diet, tobacco use and alcohol consumption, as well as suggesting other ways to help you reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

What should I look out for?

  • The main thing to look out for is any changes in colour or texture of the skin in your mouth which last for more than two weeks
  • Most start off as white or red patches. These patches are often normal and you need only become concerned if they grow in size and become more uneven
  • Oral cancer can also present as a non-healing ulcer, which is often painless and does not go away
  • Most tumours of the mouth occur on the lips, under the tongue and towards the back of the tongue

Our Message

If you are over 40 and smoke, drink alcohol heavily (over 21 units per week), use betel quid or chewing tobacco, you should be checked for mouth cancer once a year by a dentist. This also applies to people who wear full dentures and have no teeth.

You can greatly reduce the risk of mouth cancer if you stop using tobacco, even after many years of use.

A healthy diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in animal fats, helps to prevent all types of cancer.

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