Many people worry about mouth cancer, the incidence is increasing and it still predominantly occur amongst smokers. However, realistically it is still fairly rare. The usual sites are:
- side of or under the tongue
- floor of the mouth
- inside the cheeks and lips
- roof of the mouth
- area behind the wisdom teeth
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Most people with mouth cancer have no early symptoms at all, but others may have:
- an ulcer in the mouth or on the lip that won't heal
- red or white patches in the mouth particularly speckled ones
- a lump on the lip, tongue or in the neck
- unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- numbness in the mouth
- loose teeth
These symptoms aren't always caused by mouth cancer but if you have them, visit your dentist.
Causes of Mouth Cancer
Like most cancers, we don't fully understand why mouth cancer develops. However, certain factors make mouth cancer more likely.
- Smoking any form of tobacco - cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as hand-rolled cigarettes containing cannabis.
- Chewing tobacco, such as betel quid, gutkha and paan.
- Drinking excessive alcohol, especially at the same time as smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Having already had cancer of the head and neck.
- Exposure to the sun or UV light - this increases the risk of lip cancer.
- A weakened immune system - people who have HIV/AIDS, or who are taking medicines that suppress the immune system, are more likely to develop mouth cancer.
Preventing Mouth Cancer
Simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of mouth cancer.
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups.
- Look for any changes in your mouth such as, sore patches or ulcers that don't heal and report them to your dentist.
- Don't smoke or try and cut down / quit.
- Don't chew tobacco.
- Drink only in moderation.
- Protect your skin from sunlight and other UV exposure.