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Oral cancer

While cancer in other parts of the body is widely known, many people aren’t aware of cancer in the mouth. Cancer can affect the mouth, causing disease in the throat, cheeks, tongue and lips.

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Who can have oral cancer?

Anyone can have oral cancer, whether or not teeth are present. Oral cancer mostly affects people over 40 years, especially men. However, research shows that mouth cancer is becoming more common in women and younger people.

Over 640,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed yearly, making it the eleventh most common cancer. In some countries, like India, there is a higher risk of oral cancer due to issues such as tobacco chewing.

In the UK, there are about 7800 new cases of oral cancer every year, and this figure has been on the rise in the last decade.

Is oral cancer life-threatening?

Yes, it is. Over 200 people in the UK die from oral cancer each year, many of which could have been prevented with early diagnosis. Presently, people with oral cancer are more likely to die than those with melanoma, skin cancer or cervical cancer.

What causes mouth cancer?

Most mouth cancer cases are linked to alcohol and tobacco. The main forms of tobacco people use in different parts of the world are cigarettes, pipe smoking and cigar. However, habits such s as chewing tobacco, gutkha, paan, and betel quid are especially dangerous.

Alcohol also elevates the risk of oral cancer, and if you take alcohol and tobacco together, the risks are higher. Increased exposure to sunlight can also increase your risk of cancer of the lips.

Several recent reports have established a link between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, and it affects the skin lining moist areas of the body.

HPV transmission is through oral sex, and current research suggests that HPV is soon to become one of the main causes of oral cancer like drinking and smoking.

Safe sex and reducing your number of sex partners may help reduce your risk of contracting HPV. Many people contract HPV, and most do not experience any problems. HPV vaccines are now available for boys and girls. These vaccines are administered at ages 12 – 13 before they become sexually active and aim to reduce the rate of oral cancer.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

The symptoms of oral cancer appear in different ways and can affect all parts of the lips, tongue and mouth. Oral cancer can appear as a painless mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal, and a red or white patch in the mouth can become cancerous.

Check for unusual lumps in your jaw and mouth and any persistent hoarseness. Ensure you visit your doctor or dentist if your symptoms do not heal within three weeks. A check-up when you aren’t sure of the signs is necessary.

How can oral cancer be detected early?

Your dental professional can spot oral cancer early during a thorough mouth exam. If you get an early diagnosis, the chance of a successful treatment is high. Most people with oral cancer only visit their dentist or doctor when the condition has advanced.

What does a full mouth check-up involve?

The dentist will examine your tongue and the inside of your mouth with a small mirror. The exam will also extend to your neck and underneath the jaw. This examination is usually part of your routine dental check-up. Your dental care provider can see some areas of your mouth that you can’t easily see.

What happens if the dentist sports a problem?

If the dentist spots something unusual, they will refer you to another healthcare professional at the hospital to thoroughly examine your throat and mouth. The provider may collect a sample of cells (biopsy) for examination under a microscope.

Is a cure available for oral cancer?

If diagnosed early, the chances of a successful treatment are high. Smaller areas of the ulcer are also easier to cure, but many people seek treatment when it is too late because they don’t have regular oral exams.

How can I keep my mouth healthy?

You can keep your mouth healthy by reducing the amount of alcohol you take and quitting smoking. Eat healthy, balanced meals, with at least five portions of vegetables and fruit daily. This can also help protect you from other cancers. Regular visits to the dentist for check-ups are important.

Our dental care providers at McKennell Dental Practice are available if you need a thorough oral examination in London. You can visit our clinic today or call 020 7834 8802 for an appointment.

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