When we think of the word cancer, we automatically align the word with a malicious disease that primarily affects our lungs, breasts, prostate, skin, and even cancer of the blood. There are, however, growing numbers of individuals who are now suffering from mouth cancer.
What exactly is mouth cancer?
Cancer of the mouth can affect the lips, gums, tongue and cheeks, and in the last year alone around 7,000 cases were diagnosed in the UK alone. The Oral Health Foundation finds this to be an increase of 1/3 in comparison to the previous decade.
Mouth cancer takes the form of tumours within the mouth in salivary glands or throat. The most common type of mouth cancer is called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Other types of mouth cancer include adenocarcinomas, which is produced in the salivary glands, lymphomas and oral melanomas.
Typical causes of mouth cancer include excessive smoking and drinking. Recent research has found that cases of mouth cancer have been linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is more traditionally associated with cervical cancer. Traditionally, mouth cancer has been known to occur in adults between the ages of 50 and 74, with only 12.5% of cases occurring in people younger. There is now an increasing number of cases occurring in young adults, however, primarily in relation to the HPV infection.
The following symptoms are typically associated with mouth cancer, and as with any form of cancer, it is crucial to be aware of what to look out for.
Mouth ulcers are a particularly significant symptom as these could, in fact, be cancerous tumours. Any ulcers that have lasted more than 3 weeks and are not painful should be checked by your dentist. Persistent lumps in the mouth or neck should also be monitored closely. If you find that your speech changes in any way, which can include the development of a speech impediment, this could be a sign of mouth cancer. Finally, consistent experiences of numbness in the lips and tongue, or looseness of the teeth could also be a symptom.
Whilst you may not experience any of these symptoms, if you notice any irregularity developing in your mouth or neck, it is always worth consulting with a dental and medical professional for guidance.
Treatments and Prevention
The primary reason that a better understanding of the types, causes and symptoms of mouth cancer, is to be prepared to act quickly to prevent any fatal development.
The most effective ways to prevent mouth cancer from arising is maintaining a healthy diet filled with vegetables and the healthy oils found in fish. It is important that alcohol consumption is limited – or more specifically that it does not exceed the recommended 14 units per week, and individuals are advised to stop smoking entirely. Drinking alchohol and smoking at the same time, increases your risk of developing cancer by 50 fold. Regular dental exams will not only maintain the general health of your teeth and gums but will also ensure that any irregularities that emerge are identified and dealt with quickly.
Treatment of mouth cancer is in-keeping with standard cancer treatments available today. Surgery is the typical treatment, particularly when cancerous cells and tumours are found. The NHS found that, with an early diagnosis, 90% of mouth cancer cases can be treated with only surgery. Some cases may require additional treatment such as a course of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Aftercare will also focus on ensuring the primary functions and appearance of the mouth are maintained.
Evolve Dentistry is committed to ensuring that everyone understands the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of mouth cancer this Mouth Cancer Action Month. For more information, visit the Mouth Cancer Action Month website, or contact our knowledgeable team for support and guidance.