Mouth cancer

Most people have heard of cancer affecting parts of the body such as lungs and breasts. However, cancer can appear in the mouth and the disease can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat.

Who can be affected by mouth cancer?

Anyone can get the disease, irrelevant of age or lifestyle or whether they have their own teeth or not. Mouth cancers are more common in the over 40's, particularly men. However research has shown that the disease is becoming more common in the younger population and in women. The number of new cases is on the increase, and in UK mouth cancer cases have doubled in the last decade.

Do people die from mouth cancer?

Yes. Nearly 2,000 people die from mouth cancer every year. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the disease was diagnosed early enough. People with mouth cancer are more likely to die than those with cancers in other parts of the body.

What are the signs of mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and affect any part of the mouth, tongue or lips. The disease can appear as a painless mouth ulcer, that does not heal, or as a red or white painless patch. Be aware of any lumps that appear in your mouth or jaw area, and any persistent hoarseness.

How can mouth cancer be detected early?

The signs of the disease can often be detected by a thorough dental examination. If mouth cancer is diagnosed early, then the chances of a cure are good.

What happens if the dentist finds a sign?

If the dental examination shows something unusual then the dentist will refer you to see a consultant at your local hospital where a further dental examination will be carried out, a small sample of cells may be gathered from the suspected area (a biopsy), and these cells will be examined by the microbiology team to diagnose what is wrong.

What happens next?

If the cell sample shows cancerous cells then further tests will be carried out and a decision will then be made on the best course of treatment.

Can mouth cancer be cured?

If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good, and the smaller the area involved the better the diagnosis. However, too many people come forward too late because they do not have any visible signs or symptoms and do not have a regular dental examination.

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