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Oral Cancer – Are You Mouth Aware?

This November, British Charity the Oral Health Foundation will once again be running their annual Mouth Cancer Action Month. Although the campaign officially begins in three weeks time, the organisation is keen to get the message out to as many people as possible, and to remind people of the importance of being ‘mouthaware’ all year round.

Taking place throughout November, the aim of the charity campaign is to raise awareness of mouth cancer and improve education around how to spot the early signs and symptoms of the disease.

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is generally defined as cancer that affects the mouth, which may include the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. It can appear in different forms and can affect any or all parts of the mouth. It is a dangerous cancer that can and does cost lives.

What causes mouth cancer?

The biggest factors by far in mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking are the main forms of tobacco use in many parts of the world and can all increase the likelihood of developing the disease.

As well as smoking, consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of mouth cancer, with the risk even greater if tobacco and alcohol are used together.

Like the rest of your skin, over-exposure to sunlight is also a risk factor and can increase the risk of cancer of the lips.

Research conducted more recently has identified a link between mouth cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body.

HPV can be spread through oral sex, and this latest research now suggests that HPV could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.

Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of getting HPV. Many people get HPV during their lives and for many this does not cause a problem.

In a positive move that will hopefully help reduce this risk, HPV vaccines for both girls and boys are now being introduced as routine. Although initially developed to fight cervical cancer, it is likely that they will also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer. These vaccines are given at age 12 to 13 before sexual activity starts.

How many people suffer from mouth cancer?

According to figures published by the Oral Health Foundation, more than 8,300 people in the United Kingdom are now diagnosed with mouth cancer every year – an increase of almost 50% in the last decade. 

The latest figures available reveal that mouth cancer claimed 2,722 lives in the UK last year. Sadly, many of these deaths occurred because the disease was caught too late. 

Spotting the signs of mouth cancer

With the help of Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Oral Health Foundation is now encouraging everyone to be aware of any unusual changes in the mouth and know what to do if anything out of the ordinary is noticed.

Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter OBE says: “The first line of defence against mouth cancer is yourself.  Being able to identify mouth cancer at an early stage is vital for you being able to beat it.”

He goes on to encourage everybody to check their mouths regularly, paying particular attention to mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks. Other possible signs of mouth cancer are red and white patches in the mouth and lumps and swellings in the head and neck.

“If you spot something that doesn’t look normal, take action.  If in doubt, get checked out by your dentist or doctor. The decision could save your life.”

“Mouth Cancer Action Month is all about learning more about mouth cancer.  It’s the perfect opportunity to start checking your mouth at home and rethinking some of the things that might put you at greater risk.”  

For more information, including advice and information for how to get involved, how to spot risk factors and common signs and symptoms, as well as learning about the stories at the heart of the campaign, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

If you have any questions or concerns and would like to book an appointment with a dentist now, call us today on 01332 916351.

This article is adapted from https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/charity-announces-launch-of-mouth-cancer-action-month-2019


Posted by Bridge Dental and Implant Clinic on 19th November 2019, under Dental health

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