November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month, and Fleet Street Clinic has collaborated with the charity campaign MouthCancer.org to help raise awareness of the disease.
For more information about Mouth Cancer, you can read the Q&A’s below.
What is Mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer relates to cancer found in the lips, tongue, cheek and throat.
There are, on average, almost 7,800 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed in the UK each year. The number of new cases of mouth cancer is on the increase, and in the UK has increased by over half in the last decade alone.
Who is at risk?
Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease. Age is a factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
People with mouth cancer are more likely to die than those having cervical cancer or melanoma skin cancer. Prognosis is good if the disease is caught early.
What can cause mouth cancer?
Although mouth cancer can affect anybody, around 91% of all diagnoses are linked to lifestyle. This means that by amending our lifestyle choices, we can help cut the chances of developing mouth cancer.
There are many known contributors to mouth cancer:
Many cases of mouth cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol.
If tobacco and alcohol are consumed together the risk is even greater.
- Over-exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of cancer of the lips.
- Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases. Book a Dietitian Consultation
- Experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade. Book Your HPV Vaccine
What is the link between HPV and cancer?
There’s growing evidence that an increasing proportion of cancer is caused by HPV infection in the mouth. Around 1 in 4 mouth cancers and 1 in 3 throat cancers are HPV-related, but in younger patients, most throat cancers are now HPV-related.
HPV doesn’t directly give you cancer, but it causes changes in the cells it’s infected (for example, in the throat or cervix) and these cells can then become cancerous.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9 is available at Fleet Street Clinic for both girls and boys. The vaccine was developed to fight cervical cancer, but it is likely that it’ll also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer.
It is advisable to give the HPV vaccine before sexual activity starts to get the best protection. The underlying principle being there has been no exposure to any HPV strains yet. You can, however, receive the vaccination later on in life, this is down to personal choice. We’d recommend a GP consultation to discuss the HPV vaccine prior to booking.
What are the signs of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and can affect all parts of the mouth, tongue and lips. Symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- A painless mouth ulcer that does not heal normally
- White or red patch in the mouth or on the tongue
- Any unusual lumps or swellings that linger
- 1 or more mouth ulcers that don’t heal after 3 weeks
- Pain when swallowing
- A feeling as though something’s stuck in your throat
Be mouth aware and look for changes in the mouth:
It is important to visit your dentist or your GP if these areas do not heal within three weeks.
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. If mouth cancer is recognised early, then the chances of a cure are good.
It is also advised to self-check regularly for any noticeable changes in your mouth, the inside of your cheeks, the front and sides of your neck, colour and texture changes of your tongue, changes to your lips and finally, lumps and swellings on your head and neck.
How can I keep my mouth healthy?
- It is important to visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, even if you wear dentures. This is especially important if you smoke and drink alcohol.
- When brushing your teeth, look out for any changes in your mouth, and report any red or white patches, or ulcers, that have not cleared up within three weeks.
- When exposed to the sun, be sure to use a good protective sun cream, and put the correct type of barrier cream on your lips.
- A good diet, rich in vitamins A, C and E, provides protection against the development of mouth cancer. Plenty of fruit and vegetables help the body to protect itself, in general, from most cancers.
- Cut down on your smoking and drinking.