November is Month Cancer Action Month, a time when dental practices in the UK come together to raise awareness on the life threatening disease.
Research shows that more than 1,800 people in the UK lose their life to mouth cancer every year.
By raising public awareness, dentists can perform oral screenings that can help identify any abnormalities in the mouth at the earliest possible stage and help save lives.
Here are some tips on mouth cancer:
Are you at risk?
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. In the last year 6,767 have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK with an increase of more than a third compared to a decade ago.
There are several risk factors for oral cancer, including:
- Smoking and other uses of tobacco are long-term historic causes of oral cancer.
- Heavy alcohol use
- The HPV virus, a sexually-transmitted disease, is the leading cause of oropharyngeal (the back part of the mouth) cancer.
Recognising the symptoms
Make sure to talk to your dentist immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or in a family member or friend, make sure you get this checked out ASAP. The symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Sores in the mouth that bleed easily and don’t heal within 3 weeks
- A thick or hard spot or lump
- A roughened or crusted area
- Numbness, pain or tenderness
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, it might not be mouth cancer but it’s wise to get checked out by visiting you GP or dental practice.
Early detection of mouth cancer can save lives!
A thorough oral cancer screening takes less than five minutes and when found early, people with this type of cancer have a much higher survival rate. Most oral cancers, particularly types caused by HPV, are discovered too late, which means that there is an unnecessarily high death rate, which could be prevented if more people were aware of the signs and symptoms.
Many people overlook the fact that dentists are often the first people who can detect abnormalities in the mouth and can spot signs of illnesses such as diabetes and oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of a more extensive exam performed during routine visits to the dentist. So please make sure you visit your dentist regularly.