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Mouth Cancer : Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

2017 04 19
Around 18 people every day are diagnosed with oral cancer, but around half delay getting a diagnosis (Source: MCAM). We take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this serious medical condition.

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, as it’s also known, is when a tumour develops on the mouth, lips, gums or tongue (Source: NHS Choices). More than 2,000 people die from this condition each year (Source: MCAM).

What are the causes of mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is typically linked to tobacco and alcohol use. Smoking can cause it, but chewing tobacco and other substances such as paan and betel leaf can also lead to oral cancer.

Recent reports also indicate there may be a link to HPV (Human papillomavirus). Oral sex is one of the main causes of HP and is also quickly becoming a major cause of mouth cancer. HPV can be prevented through a vaccine, which is typically administered to children aged 12 or 13. (Source: OHF).

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?

The symptoms of the condition can vary as it can appear in different parts of the mouth. One of the main signs is an ulcer (a tear in the skin) which will not heal. Persistent red or white patches, swelling, lumps in the mouth, and/or hoarseness may also be symptoms.

Dramatic weight loss may also occur. If you experience these symptoms for more than three weeks, you should visit a dentist or doctor immediately. (Source: OHF, WebMD).

Who typically gets mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is relatively unusual; it accounts for about 2 % of all cancers diagnosed in the UK each year. Most cases occur in older adults aged from 50 to the mid-70s. More men than women get it, as alcohol misuse is higher among men. Younger people can also get the condition, though this is usually linked to HPV. (Source: NHS Choices).

What is the treatment for mouth cancer? Can it be cured?

Mouth cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed early enough. The smaller the affected area, the better the chances are that it can be treated effectively. However, many who contract this condition do not come forward early enough for it to be diagnosed in time. (Source: OHF).

Treatment for oral cancer can involve radiotherapy, surgery, or chemotherapy, and will depend on the nature and extent of the condition, and your overall health. If the condition has spread beyond the mouth or the back of the throat, it may be incurable and only possible to slow the cancer’s progress (NHS Choices).

Where can I find out more about oral cancer?

If you have concerns at all, contact your dentist or doctor. If you want to learn more, go to Mouth Cancer Action Month website, or call the Oral Health Foundation on 01788 539780.