Oral Cancer
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Oral Cancer

General Dentistry » Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer that develops inside the mouth, usually on the surface of the tongue, the lips or the gums. In rare cases, it can also develop in the salivary glands, or in the tonsils.

How common is oral cancer?

Approximately 2,700 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year in England and Wales. The condition is more common in men than in women, and most cases develop in people who are 40 years of age, or over.

Symptoms of oral cancer include a persistent lump or sore on the lip or in the mouth, pain in the neck and/or a lump in the neck.

Oral cancer can have many causes, but the majority of cases are caused by tobacco, including smoking cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco, and excessive alcohol consumption. Both tobacco and alcohol can damage the tissue inside the mouth, triggering cell changes that can lead to cancer.

Oral cancer can be cured if it is detected early enough using a combination of radiotherapy and surgery. However, many people only realise that they have oral cancer once it has progressed to an advanced state, making it more difficult to treat.

It is estimated that 920 people die from oral cancer in England and Wales every year.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid smoking or chewing tobacco, to drink alcohol in moderation, and to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

How to detect the early stages of oral cancer...

In its very early stages, mouth cancer can be almost invisible making it easy to ignore. You can improve your chances of survival if the cancer is detected early and rapidly treated.

It is important to have a self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification of these symptoms:

  1. A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks.
  2. A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth.
  3. A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth.
  4. Difficulty in swallowing.
  5. Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue.
  6. Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
  7. A feeling that something is caught in the throat.
  8. A chronic sore throat or voice change (hoarseness) that persists more than six weeks, particuarily smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers.
  9. Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
  10. Neck swelling present for more than three weeks.
  11. Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for more than three weeks - see a dentist urgently!
  12. Persistant nasal (especially unilateral) nasal obstruction, particularily associated with mucus (clear, purulent or bloody) discharge causing difficulty breathing through nose.
  13. Unexplained persistent earache.
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