Beware of mouth cancer
What is mouth cancer?
Cancer can occur in the mouth, where the disease can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat.
Who can be affected by mouth cancer?
Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer (oral cancer), with or without teeth. Mouth cancers are more common in people over 40, particularly men. However, research has shown that mouth cancer is becoming more common in younger patients and in women.
Can mouth cancer be fatal?
Yes. Over 1,900 people in the UK die from mouth cancer (oral cancer) every year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if the cancer was caught early enough. As it is, people with mouth cancer are more likely to die than those having cervical cancer.
What are the causes of mouth cancer?
- Tobacco and alcohol Most cases of mouth cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking are the main forms of tobacco use in the UK. However, the traditional ethnic habits of chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutkha and paan are particularly dangerous. Alcohol increases the risk of mouth cancer, and if tobacco and alcohol are consumed together the risk is even greater. Over-exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of cancer of the lips.
- Human Papilloma virus Many recent reports have linked mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. Mouth and oropharyngeal cancers have been linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV), especially type 16. There are more than 100 different types of (HPV). Some types are called the wart virus, because they cause warts on the genital area or skin. Other types of HPV are known to increase the risk of some types of cancer. These include cancer of the cervix, vaginal cancer, vulval cancer and anal cancer. HPV can be passed on during sexual contact. HPV infection of the mouth is more common in men than in women. The risk of HPV infection in the mouth and throat is linked to certain sexual behaviours, such as open mouth kissing and oral sex. The risk increases with the number of sexual partners a person has. Smoking also increases the risk of HPV infection in the mouth. Practicing safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of contracting HPV.
- Immunodeficiency Research has found that people have an increased risk of mouth cancer if they have a reduced immunity due to HIV or AIDS. Taking medicines to suppress immunity after organ transplants also gives a higher risk of mouth cancer than in the general population.
- UV rays Skin cancers occurring on the lip, are parts of the mouth cancer group. Both the sun and tanning beds give off UV rays. These rays can cause skin cancers in unprotected skin. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and can occur on the lip.
- Family history There is a slightly higher risk of getting mouth cancer if you have a close relative (a parent, brother, sister or child) who has had mouth cancer.
What are the signs of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and can affect all parts of the mouth, tongue and lips.
- Ulcers, white or red patches in the mouth or throat which persist more than three weeks.
- Lump or thickening on the lip or inside the mouth or the throat
- Difficulty or pain on swallowing
- Feeling of the obstruction in the throat
- Unusual bleeding inside the mouth
- Numbness of the mouth or tongue which cannot be related to a recent incident and is getting worse.
- Teeth getting loose in the absence of any clinical reasons.
- Speech problems
- Lump in the neck
- Weight loss
- Bad Breath
How can mouth cancer be detected early?
Mouth cancer can often be spotted in its early stages by your dentist during a thorough mouth examination. If mouth cancer is recognised early, then the chances of a cure are good. Many people with mouth cancer go to their dentist or doctor too late.
Check inside your mouth with a small mirror for any changes that could be due to mouth cancer.
What is involved in a full check-up of the mouth?
The dentist examines the inside of your mouth and your tongue with the help of a small mirror. Remember, your dentist is able to see parts of your mouth that you cannot see easily yourself.
What happens if my dentist finds a problem?
If your dentist finds something unusual or abnormal they will refer you to a consultant at the local hospital, who will carry out a thorough examination of your mouth and throat. A small sample of the cells may be gathered from the area (a biopsy), and these cells will be examined under the microscope to see what is wrong.
What happens next?
If the cells are cancerous, more tests will be carried out. These may include overall health checks, blood tests, x-rays or scans. These tests will decide what course of treatment is needed.
Can mouth cancer be cured?
If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good, and the smaller the area or ulcer the better the chance of a cure. However, too many people come forward too late, because they do not visit their dentist for regular examinations.
How can I make sure that my mouth stays healthy?
It is important to visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, even if you wear dentures. This is especially important if you smoke and drink alcohol. When brushing your teeth, look out for any changes in your mouth, and report any red or white patches, or ulcers, that have not cleared up within three weeks. If you wear dentures, check the sitting area of the denture for ulcers, some ulcers especially the ones under the dentures are pain free and sinister in nature. When exposed to the sun, be sure to use a good protective sun cream, and put the correct type of barrier cream on your lips. A good diet, rich in vitamins A, C and E, provides protection against the development of mouth cancer. Plenty of fruit and vegetables help the body to protect itself, in general, from most cancers. Cut down on your smoking and drinking.
At Caspian Dental Clinic, we routinely monitor for the signs of mouth cancer. Remember, visiting your dentist regularly can save your life, don’t ignore mouth cancer, if you are in doubt, book an appointment to have it checked. Call us on 01923254979 to book your appointment or book online.
***With thanks to British dental Foundation and Cancer Research
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