TO support Mouth Cancer Awareness Month, people across the South Eastern HSC Trust area are being urged to be more aware of the early signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. A campaign has been launched in the Ulster Hospital to inform and educate the public about the importance of early detection and diagnosis.
Mouth cancer rates are continuing to rise in both men and women, especially in the under 50’s, with more young people developing mouth cancer than ever before. By 2030, it is predicted there will be 9200 cases of mouth cancer every year in the UK, compared with 6240 in 2009. Mouth cancer affects the lips, tongue, cheek lining, gums, palate and floor of the mouth.
In Northern Ireland over 120 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year, with more than one third of those diagnosed with mouth cancer dying from the disease. Every year mouth cancer kills more people than cervical or testicular cancer.
Unfortunately 70% of mouth cancers are detected at a late stage because people are not aware of the warning signs. Late presentation of mouth cancer results in lower chances of survival. When detected early, mouth cancer patients can experience survival rates of around 90%. Therefore, ‘EARLY DETECTION COULD SAVE LIVES’.
Dentists are trained to screen for signs of mouth cancer. Regular dental check-ups allow the dentist to look for any early warning signs of mouth cancer. As well as attending your dentist, it is recommended that you look for mouth cancer. Self-examination is a simple, potentially life-saving process.
Look out for:
- Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks;
- Red and white patches in the mouth;
- Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or neck area.
Other signs and symptoms to be aware of are pain when swallowing, a tooth that becomes loose for no obvious reason, a hoarse voice, earache or difficulty opening the mouth.
Many of the symptoms listed above can also be caused by less serious conditions, such as minor infections that do not usually require a medical diagnosis. Nonetheless, it is strongly recommended that you visit your GP or dentist if you develop any of the symptoms listed above, especially if they last for more than three weeks. Symptoms of an infection usually clear up much sooner than this. The key message is ‘IF IN DOUBT, GET CHECKED OUT’.
It is important that the general public know the risk factors for mouth cancer as PREVENTION IS KEY. The main risk factors of mouth cancer are tobacco use and drinking alcohol and together these account for around 75% of mouth cancers. In fact, people who both drink and use tobacco are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease.
Poor diet has also been linked to mouth cancer. It is recommended that people eat a healthy, balanced diet including five portions of fruit and vegetables each day as this can reduce the risk of mouth cancer. The human papilloma virus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, is increasingly being linked to mouth cancer. Younger people and those with multiple sexual partners are more at risk. A recent study in the USA has connected over 20,000 mouth cancer cases to HPV in the last five years.