Don’t lose your smile

“It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime.”

Steve Maraboli

Do you know anything about mouth cancer?

Here’s your chance to find out more…and you should: over 8,300 cases of mouth cancer were diagnosed in the UK in the last year (and globally 300,000+), 78% of which were in those aged 55 and over.

Mouth cancer has increased by 49% in the last ten years and is one of the few cancers predicted to increase further in coming years.

Want to know more?

Mouth Cancer Action Month is held each November, aiming to raise awareness of mouth cancer and save lives by promoting the values of prevention and early detection.

The main risk factors for mouth cancer are:

  • Smoking or using other forms of tobacco, including chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol – people who drink and smoke heavily have a much higher risk compared with the population at large
  • Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) – HPV is the virus that causes genital warts.

Other risk factors include an unhealthy diet, sunlight/sunbeds, cancer history, family history of mouth cancer and a compromised immune system.

And although these risk factors are responsible for many mouth cancers, it's a disease that can affect anyone. That's why it is so important we all know what to look out for.

If in doubt, get checked out

Beating mouth cancer is dependent upon diagnosing it at an early stage. If it is caught early, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are 90%; that’s why early detection is so important.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, speak to your dentist, doctor or OH provider immediately.

Checking for mouth cancer

As mouth cancer can strike in a number of places, including the lips, tongue, gums and cheeks and, given that early detection is so essential for survival, it’s important to know what to look out for.

Three signs and symptoms not to ignore are:

  • Mouth ulcers which do not heal in three weeks
  • Red and white patches in the mouth
  • Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.

When checking for signs of mouth cancer you should follow the following routine:

  • Head and neck: Check if both sides look the same and search for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face. Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck being alert to any tenderness or lumps to the touch
  • Lips: Pull down your lower lip and look inside for any sores or changes in colour. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for any unusual lumps, bumps or changes in texture. Repeat this on the upper lip
  • Cheek: Use your finger to pull out your cheek so that they can see inside. Look for red, white or dark patches. Then place your index finger inside your cheek, with your opposing thumb on the outside gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers, repeat this action on the other cheek
  • Roof of the mouth: With your head tilted back and mouth open wide, your dentist will look to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour. They will run their finger on the roof of your mouth to feel for any lumps
  • Tongue: Examine your tongue, looking at the surface for any changes in colour or texture. Stick out your tongue or move it from one side to another, again looking for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers. Finally, take a look at the underside of the tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth
  • Floor of the mouth: Look at the floor of the mouth for changes in colour that are different than normal. Press your finger along the floor of your mouth and underside of your tongue to feel for any unusual lumps, swellings or ulcers. If you find anything unusual in any of these areas, or are unsure of anything, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible
  • Don’t leave a mouth ulcer unattended for more than three weeks
  • Don’t ignore any unusual lumps or swellings or red and white patches in your mouth
  • Regularly check your own mouth, lips, cheeks, head and neck for anything out of the ordinary.

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. This happens during your routine dental check up.

Watch the video below, read the latest report on mouth cancer and support mouth cancer awareness here.

In the video below, Oral Health Foundation Trustee, Dr Ben Atkins, talks through what to expect from a visual mouth cancer check

Take a look