Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is uncommon, affecting only 1 in 50 people with a cancer diagnosis.
It is most common in older adults between the ages of 54-70, although it can affect people of a younger age. Mouth cancer is most commonly found in men, this is because men on average drink more alcohol than women do.
There are several causes of mouth cancer, including smoking and alcohol. The chemicals in both of these can change and damage the DNA within your mouth over time, eventually leading to cancer.
Other risk factors include
- a poor diet
- poor oral hygiene
- chewing tobacco or smokeless tobacco products
- chewing betel nuts with or without tobacco
Some of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer to look out for include:
Ulcers that don’t heal
Ulcers are one of two most common symptoms of mouth cancer.
Ulcers are a broken area of skin in the mouth, although they are not always painful. They usually last 10-14 days. If they has not gone after three weeks, contact your local GP.
Discomfort in the mouth
The other most common symptom of mouth cancer is discomfort or pain in the mouth. If the pain is persistent then you will need to contact your local GP for a consultation.
Pain and difficulty swallowing
Swallowing food can become a great difficulty. You may experience pain or a burning sensation when you chew and swallow food. You may also feel that the food is getting stuck down the back of your throat.
Trouble swallowing food isn’t always a sign of mouth cancer, it can be a symptom of the narrowing of the food pipe. If you have any concerns, speak to your Doctor.
Changes to your voice and speech
Mouth cancer, like lung cancer, can effect and change your voice. Your voice may become husky, it may quieten or you may sound like you have a cold. Some people experience trouble with pronouncing their words too.
Red or white patches on the lining of your mouth or tongue
Red and white patches in your mouth, throat or tongue can be an indication of precancerous or cancerous changes.
These changes aren’t always cancerous, they can be a sign of fungal infections such as thrush. If you use an anti-fungal treatment and the patches go away, then it isn’t cancer.
Lumps in your neck or mouth can be an indication of something more serious. Lumps in your neck are often a result of enlarged lymph nodes, which could indicate cancer. However, if you have a painful lump, it may just be an infection.
Other signs of cancer can include:
- Loose teeth
- Pain in your tongue
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Sore throat
- Unusual bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness in the mouth
- Unexplained weight loss
Some ways to look after your mouth
Giving up smoking and drinking less are the more obvious things that can help. However, you can also:
- Clean your teeth twice a day; once before going to bed
- Use either a mouth wash, or for the natural option; cinnamon, activated charcoal; coconut oil, and other options can be used as well as your usual oral hygiene but they contain natural antibacterial and re-mineralising properties.
- Clean between the teeth
- Eat a healthy diet
- Stay hydrated
If you have any medical concerns, please arrange an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.
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