With the HPV vaccine being recently extended to boys and the focus on mouth cancer once again being thrust into the limelight, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the disease. As such, I think it’s a good idea to go back to the basics and explain what worrying signs could be caused by mouth cancer – after all, as the old mantra states, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
In the UK it is estimated that over 7,800 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year, and global reports state that 300,000 new cases of the disease are reported worldwide each annum. Whilst these numbers do pale in comparison to some other forms of cancer, it does show that this is definitely a disease to be concerned about. Especially worrying is that this cancer is one of the few where cases are distinctly on the rise, and numbers have grown by over a third in the last decade and are presumed to continue rising.[i]
So what are the symptoms of mouth cancer? There are some very prominent signs that need to be checked out ASAP if you believe that you have them. The first of these is mouth ulcers that seem to last for a long time. If a mouth ulcer has stayed for more than 3 weeks it may be a sign that it is a cancerous growth and needs to be checked out immediately. Another common sign is any patches of white or redness and unusual lumps or swellings – due to the complexity of the oral cavity these will most likely be harmless, but it is always best to get a second opinion.
If you are concerned about mouth cancer it’s best to head to your doctor or dentist straight away. Even if you don’t have any symptoms it’s also a good idea to exercise restraint or to try to give up any activities that have been linked with mouth cancer. These include tobacco use of any kind, excessive drinking, and excessive sun exposure (to the lips). I’ve said time and time again how important it is to quit tobacco products and to exercise moderation when it comes to drinking, but it’s also a good tip to put sun cream on your lips if you are ever out in good weather (as this is a place many people forget to protect!)
Overall mouth cancer is something that we all need to vigilant about. By knowing the symptoms and getting them checked out straight away, you can rest assured that you can catch the cancer early or be comforted that a lump or red patch is something far less serious.
[i] The Oral Health foundation. Mouth Cancer Action month. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-action-month [Last accessed October 18].