It causes more deaths in the UK each year than road traffic accidents, but its symptoms often get overlooked. Mouth Cancer is a serious condition that can grow and develop very quickly, but early detection is the key to treating it and knowing the oral cancer symptoms to look out for might just help save your life.
Whilst oral cancer describes a variety of tumours that can affect the tongue, lips, gums, palate and inside of the cheeks, there are a number of common symptoms that you can easily look out for. Spotting any of these signs and mentioning it as soon as you can to your dentist or GP will ensure that you get the care and reassurance you need. After all, it is probably nothing, but it definitely pays to be aware. As it is Mouth Cancer Action Month across the UK in November, now is the perfect time to share these 10 oral cancer symptoms so you can be mouth aware:
- Ulcers - we all get ulcers from time to time, particularly if we are rundown or suffering from any other kind of illness, however a mouth ulcer that does not heal within 3 weeks should be something you seek advice about.
- Lumps or swelling - if you notice any strange lumps, bumps or swellings in your mouth that cannot otherwise be attributed to a known cause then please book in to see your dentist.
- Red or white patches - a red or white patch on the inside of your mouth could be a sign of something serious so please do get it checked out.
- Pain or discomfort - if you are experiencing discomfort or pain that you cannot attribute to an existing dental/oral issue then it is advisable to seek advice from your dentist or GP.
- Bleeding - if you notice blood coming from anywhere in your mouth or throat and this is not caused by something you already know about it might be a sign of oral cancer.
- Change in texture - a change in texture of the skin or gums, such as them becoming rough or scaly is something you should seek advice about.
- Difficulty swallowing - if you are finding it hard to swallow, chew or move your jaw please book in to see your dentist or GP so they can check it out for you.
- Numbness - a numb or tingling sensation in your lips or tongue is probably nothing to worry about but as it can be an early indication of mouth cancer, it’s best to get it checked out.
- Teeth that become loose - though this is more likely to be caused by gum disease or trauma to the tooth, if one or more of your teeth suddenly become loose you should mention it to your dentist without delay.
- .Persistent cough - with Covid-19 always in the back of our minds it is important to rule this out if you have a persistent cough, but if your test is negative and you are worried you should see your GP or dentist as a persistent cough or a feeling that there is something stuck in your throat could be a sign of mouth cancer.
Though all of these symptoms can have other explanations, early detection is key to treating oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
You should take particular care to check for these symptoms if you fall under any of the following risk categories:
- Smoking - smokers are 6 times more likely to develop mouth and neck cancers
- Drinking - those who drink heavily increase their risk of oral cancer by 4 times
- HPV - those who have unprotected oral sex are at risk of developing the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - which experts predict may overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor of mouth cancer in the next decade
- Diet - those with a poor diet are more at risk of developing oral cancers
- Men - mouth cancer is twice as common in men as in women
- Over 55 - 78% of cases occur in people aged 55 and over
Book Now for Your Oral Cancer Check
We carry out routine oral cancer screening as part of all of our dental check ups, but if you are particularly worried about something or have noticed any of the above symptoms in between your regular visits, please do call us on 0800 0154 222 or click here to book an appointment. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but being mouth aware means you are more likely to spot anything early so it can be easily treated.