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Are you Mouthaware? The Causes and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

New research just published by the Oral Health Foundation, one of the UK’s leading health charities, has revealed an urgent need for British adults to improve their knowledge on the common causes and symptoms of mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer in numbers

More than 8,300 people have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the United Kingdom over the last twelve months, making it one of the fastest-growing cancers in the country. Of those diagnosed, 2,700 have sadly gone on to lose their lives.

Alarmingly the number of cases has risen by 135% over 20 years -  at a time when many cancers are seeing a trend in the opposite direction. So what is behind this drastic rise and can it be prevented?

What causes mouth cancer?

Many people are not aware that the most common causes are popular habits - smoking or chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol to excess. Other common risk factors are the human papillomavirus (HPV) and poor diet.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “By making a few simple changes to our lifestyle, we can considerably lessen our risk of mouth cancer.  Cutting down on alcohol, quitting tobacco and eating healthier, will not only reduce our chance developing mouth cancer but will also provide wider benefits to our general health.”

In the survey, conducted with members of the general public, it was discovered that a third of people are not aware that smoking causes mouth cancer while more than half do not know that alcohol contributes to the disease.

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?

The survey also reveealed that only a third of people recognise the vital early warning signs of the mouth cancer – long-lasting mouth ulcers, lumps in the mouth and red or white patches. It is also important to look in other areas, notes Dr Carter.


Image credit: Oral Health Foundation

“Mouth cancer can appear in the mouth, lips, head and neck. Look for mouth ulcers lasting longer than three weeks, red of white patches, or unusual lumps and swellings.

“If any of these are seen, we should visit a dentist or doctor immediately.”

Although the key message is that prevention is better than cure, spotting mouth cancer early can greatly improve our chances of survival.

“By regularly examining the mouth and seeking professional help quickly, we can improve our chances of beating the disease and have a better quality of life.

Benefits of being Mouthaware

Behind the Oral Health Foundation’s latest Mouthaware campaign is the belief that by improving our knowledge of mouth cancer, we can significantly reduce the number of lives affected by the disease.

Dr Carter says: “When compared with other cancers, our awareness of mouth cancer remains staggering low. Education about mouth cancer is without doubt the biggest roadblock we face in transforming the landscape of the disease.

“Both the number of people being diagnosed with mouth cancer, and those losing their life to the disease, can be dramatically improved with more information about the causes and early warning signs.”

“Being Mouthaware is about being able to recognise and act on any changes in our mouth,” adds Dr Carter.

Visit www.mouthcancer.org to find out more about mouth cancer signs, symptoms and other key information about the disease.

If you have any questions or concerns about mouth cancer, don’t hesitate to contact your team here at Field House Dental Practice today on 01892 782300 and one of our experts will be happy to advise you.