FACT: Oral Cancer kills almost 1800 people a year in the UK.
That’s a figure several times higher than the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer and testicular cancer together.
The 5-year survival rate for mouth cancer is currently around 50%. This has not changed significantly over the last 20 years or so although the number of mouth cancer cases has increased by a massive 45% between 1997 and 2008.
The good news is that if it is caught early the 5 year survival rate goes up to 90%. The key is effective screening.
Traditionally, mouth cancer has been thought of as a disease that affects older men who smoke and drink alcohol to excess, often, but not always, with a poor diet. Chewing paan, areca nut and guthka is known to cause mouth cancer also.
However, the picture is changing. The ratio of men to women who were diagnosed was 5:1. It is now 2:1. And alarmingly, younger and younger patients are now being affected.
Most of the younger people are non-smokers
Whilst the tobacco and alcohol route is well established there is a newer cause: a particular strain of a virus – the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) version 16. This virus is responsible for most cervical cancers.
It is now thought that the HPV is responsible for the fastest growing group of oral cancers. This virus is sexually transmitted. Hence anyone sexually active, and engaging in oral sex may be vulnerable to the virus. This would explain the increase in younger people who otherwise may not have any risk factors.
The Oral Cancer Foundation believes that the HPV may well be replacing tobacco as the main cause of this disease in the Western world.
The vast majority of infections with HPV will be harmless. In some individuals they can however lead to disease. The mouth cancers caused by the virus tend to affect the back of the mouth which might be missed by the individual, sometimes starting as a tiny red or white spot. Remember early detection is the key.
The two most common symptoms of mouth cancer are an ulcer in the mouth that will not heal, and discomfort or pain that won’t go away.
Other symptoms include: a white or red patch in the mouth or throat that will not go away; a lump or thickening on the lip or in the mouth or throat; difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing; a feeling that something is caught in the throat; unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth, or loose teeth.
This is not intended to make people think that every time they have any of these common symptoms it is cancer. But it is better to be safe than sorry – go to your dentist or GP and get it checked!
“There are medical conditions that cause abnormal areas in the mouth or throat which are harmless to begin with but, if left untreated, can turn into cancer,” warned Dr Alam-Orths, of True Dentistry.
These include leukoplakia which causes white patches in the mouth, and erythroplakia which is a slightly raised red area in the mouth that bleeds easily.
“All forms of oral cancer can be painless at first” she added, “and the symptoms are easily missed in the early stages. But these can be picked up by your dentist or doctor.
“Regular dental check-ups, even if you have false teeth, are very important and screening is highly effective.”
Ideally everybody should receive oral cancer screening at their dental check-ups. Additionally if you have any of the following symptoms, go to your dentist or GP as soon as possible:
- an ulcer in the mouth or on the lip that won't heal (if it persists for longer than 2 weeks, see your GP or dentist).
- constant pain or soreness
- red or white patches in the mouth
- a lump on the lip, tongue or in the neck
- unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- numbness in the mouth
- unexplained loose tooth or teeth
These symptoms aren't always caused by mouth cancer but if you have them, visit your GP or dentist and have them checked.
1. Regular dental check-ups with screening for oral cancer
2. If you notice any suspicious symptoms get them checked out
3. Stop smoking
4. Drink alcohol only in moderation
5. Eat plenty of varied vegetables. A lack of these has been implicated in mouth cancer as in other cancers.
For more information about Oral Cancer Month, or anything else regarding your oral health, give True Dentistry a call. They're experts in everything dental, and really are at the top of their field.
Member since: 9th July 2012
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