Oral cancer: how to reduce your risk

The incidence of oral cancer the UK alone has increased by more than 75% in the past 30 years. Luckily, taking precautionary measures and learning how to detect the early signs can help to prevent the risk of the disease.

Oral cancer is an umbrella term used to describe the various cancers that can develop in the mouth or nearby, such as the lips, tongue, cheeks, jawbone, gums, and throat.

In the UK more than 6,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually. This accounts for about 2% of all cancers. Men are generally more at risk of developing oral cancer than women, while the overall risk increases with age. Oral cancer can affect young adults as well as the elderly however, so it is important that everybody is aware of ways to prevent this disease.

Risk factors for developing oral cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol, using snuff or dip, having a poor diet, and being infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is usually transmitted via oral sex.

In addition, those who both drink alcohol and smoke are 20 times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not. If you wish to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer, the best thing you can do is to stop smoking and drinking.

Common symptoms of oral cancer can include: one or more mouth ulcers that do not heal after three weeks; unexplained swelling in the mouth that lasts over three weeks; white, red, or speckled patches in the mouth; unexplained numbness, loss of feeling or pain in any area of the face, mouth or neck, a persistent lump in the neck due to an enlarged lymph node; difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your mouth; and dramatic weight loss.

The above symptoms can also occur with various other conditions, and they are not always indicative of oral cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.

As part of a routine dental examination, your dentist will also conduct an oral cancer screening examination. This just involves examining your mouth and feeling for any lumps or irregular tissue.

The earlier oral cancer is diagnosed, the less chance there is of it spreading into surrounding tissue. So it’s imperative to ensure you regularly attend dental check-ups, even if you think your mouth is completely healthy and even if you have no natural remaining teeth.

Call us here at Dental Care Partnership on 0121 354 1922 to book an appointment with one of our friendly team.