Saturday 4th February is #WorldCancerDay and many people around the world will be gathering to raise awareness and show support for those affected by cancer. Most of us will either know someone who has had cancer or will have experienced it personally. One form of cancer is mouth cancer, often referred to as oral cancer. Those suffering from this type of cancer can lose the ability to eat and speak, and so at White Dental Rooms, we want to speak out about mouth cancer.
Mouth cancer is largely caused by lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and sun/sunbed exposure. Oral cancer cases have jumped significantly by 68% in the last 20 years, making it one of the fastest growing cancers in the UK. In fact, one person in the UK is told that they have mouth cancer every 45 minutes. However, this need not be the case as statistics from Cancer Research UK show that 91% of oral cancer cases are preventable.
Below are some of the symptoms of mouth cancer to watch out for. If you suffer from any of these symptoms that do not heal within 3 weeks, then you should contact your dentist or GP as soon as possible.
Mouth Ulcers That Do Not Heal
Many of us will have experienced a mouth ulcer before if we have accidently bitten the skin in our cheek, or brushed our teeth too hard. An ulcer is a small lesion in the skin that becomes very sore. They normally heal within a few days either by themselves or by applying special gel, but if the ulcer does not go away for several weeks then you should seek medical advice. 80% of oral cancer suffers show this symptom.
Having unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth and/or neck that do not go away can be a sign of an enlarged lymph node. Swelling in one or more lymph nodes in the neck is a common symptom of mouth cancer. However, lumps that come and go are not usually due to cancer, as cancer usually forms a lump that gradually gets bigger. A red painful lump that feels hot usually means an infection, rather than cancer. Any abnormal and persistent lumps should be checked out.
Red or White Patches
White patches are called leukoplakia and red patches are called erythroplakia. These patches are not cancer, but if left untreated they may lead to cancer. Sometimes patches can occur due to fungal infections, where the white patch will rub away to leave a sore red area. This will go away once treated, however, an abnormal looking patch that does not heal could be a sign of cancer or precancerous changes and must be looked at by a medical professional such as your doctor or dentist.
Problems Speaking or Swallowing
Difficulty swallowing can be caused by a narrowing of the food pipe which is largely harmless, however, a burning sensation or pain when eating and swallowing could be something more serious.
Mouth and throat cancer can also affect your voice. If you begin to have difficulty speaking and/or are slurring your words, or if your voice sounds husky all the time as if you have a cold then it is worth being examined.
If you notice any numbness in your mouth or feel that your teeth are loose for no apparent reason, as these can also be signs of mouth cancer. Some sufferers also have trouble moving their jaw, or experience thickening of the lips.
Go to your dentist or doctor if you have an ulcer that will not heal, pain or discomfort in the mouth that will not go away, or any symptoms that are unusual for you or that do not go away.