Mouth cancer

What is it?
Mouth cancer is dangerous abnormal growth that can affect any part of the mouth.

What are the signs of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer can appear as:

  • A painless ulcer that fails to clear up after about two weeks.
  • A growth or swelling which has been present for more than about two weeks.
  • Sometimes as a white or red patch in the mouth.

Most things like this will not turn out to be cancer, but if you have these signs they must be investigated by going to your dentist immediately.

Am I at risk from mouth cancer?

  • If you use tobacco (smocked or chewed) and drink too much alcohol, you will greatly increase your risk of getting mouth cancer. If you do both together, your chances of getting it are even greater still.
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of lip and skin cancer.
  • The chances of getting mouth cancer are greater for people aged over 40 years, but younger people can get it too.
  • You are more at risk of cancer if you don’t eat a healthy diet.

How can mouth cancer be detected?
Your dentist can spot mouth cancer early. If it is detected early, the chances of a cure are very good. At the moment around half of the 4,000 people diagnosed with mouth cancer every year in the UK die of it because it is discovered too late.

What will my dentist do?

  • Look at your face and neck.
  • Examine the inside of your mouth with a small mirror, looking at your lips, cheeks, tongue , the roof of your mouth and your throat. Your dentist can see parts of your mouth that you can’t easily see or feel yourself. Your dentist may notice something in your mouth that needs to be monitored or needs to be seen by a specialist.

What are the benefits of being regularly checked?
Regular examinations mean that your dentist can spot problems early – and these include mouth cancer.

How can I prevent mouth cancer?

  • By following a healthy diet with five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, you can help to prevent mouth cancer as well as many other cancers and diseases.
  • Do not use tobacco at all and drink moderately – this is keep your weekly intake to below 14 units for women and 21 for men. (One unit is roughly equal to a single measure of a spirit, a half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.)
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