Oral cancer is one of the less well known killers. It can occur in any part of the mouth, though it usually has its beginnings on the tongue or the floor of the mouth.
It’s most common in older men, with excessive smoking and consumption of alcohol both major contributing factors.
Despite being one of the less talked about forms of cancer, oral cancer is among the biggest killers. In fact, with around 8000 cases reported every year, it’s the sixth most commonly occurring kind of cancer.
The mortality rate is high – around 50% – but this isn’t helped by the fact that too many cases aren’t discovered until it’s too late for treatment. It’s easy to see why those who fail to look after oral health – especially by skipping on dental visits – are most at risk.
It also helps to be educated. Take a look at some of the warning signs below:
- An ulcer or sore in the mouth that does not heal after 3 weeks
- A sore throat which lasts more than two months
A swelling or lump in the mouth or around the neck for more than three weeks
- A pale or whitish patch on the tongue, inner cheek or gums
- Persistent difficulty swallowing
- Persistent hoarseness of voice for two months especially those who smoke and drink alcohol heavily
- Difficulty in moving the jaw
- Loose teeth.
- Feeling that something is inside the throat while swallowing
- A sensation of numbness in the mouth or tongue
- One-sided mass in the nostril accompanied by a bloody discharge
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s better not to wait until the time frames suggested above to seek treatment.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of ever getting oral cancer. First to go should be tobacco – especially the chewing variety. Excessive alcohol should also be avoided. A healthy diet with less fat and red meat, along with plenty of vegetables, fresh fruit and fibre will help too.
Regular dental check-ups could help improve prospects by catching any signs of oral cancer earlier, especially if your dentist carries out oral cancer checks as standard.