Cancer is not a single disease with a single cause and a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment. Although cells in different parts of the body may look and work differently, most repair and reproduce themselves in the same way. Normally, cells divide in an orderly and controlled way. But if for some reason the process gets out of control, the cells carry on dividing and develop into a lump called a tumour. Tumours are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus, and other sites located in the head and neck area.
How Common is Mouth Cancer?
•In the UK 38,000 people are living with a diagnosis of head and neck cancer.
•Around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade.
What Causes Mouth Cancer?
•Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness – including mouth cancer.
•Tobacco users are 6 times more likely to develop head & neck cancer.
•75% of mouth and throat cancers occur in tobacco users.
•Alcohol is another common cause of mouth cancer. Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times.
•3 in 4 people, who have mouth cancer, smoke and consume alcohol.
•Experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.
•Poor diet is linked to a third of all mouth cancer cases.
Mouth Cancer – The Facts
•Every year in Europe, around 100,800 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and almost 40,000 die from the disease.
•Although there have been significant improvements in chemotherapy and surgical techniques, the disease is often particularly challenging to treat since most patients present with advanced disease, have secondary tumours and suffer from other co-morbidities
•Unfortunately 5-year survival rate has not improved (50% overall) for the last few decades except in specialised cancer centres.
•These ‘Mouth Cancers’ have a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or skin melanoma.
•In the UK, there were 7,700 cases of mouth, throat and head and neck cancers in 2011.
•The mortality rate is just over 50%, despite treatment, with 2,718 deaths occurring in 2005.
•Mouth cancer kills one person every 3 hours in the UK because of late detection.
•Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
•Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.
Mouth Cancer – The Signs and Symptoms.
In its very early stages, mouth cancers can be almost invisible making it easy to ignore. Chances of survival are improved if the cancer is detected early and rapidly treated. It is important to have self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification. Common symptoms include:
•A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks.
•A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth.
•A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth.
•Difficulty in swallowing.
•Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue.
•Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
•A feeling that something is caught in the throat.
•A chronic sore throat or voice change (hoarseness) that persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers.
•Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
•Neck swelling present for more than three weeks.
•Persistent nasal (especially unilateral) nasal obstruction, particularly associated with mucus (clear, purulent or bloody) discharge causing difficulty breathing through nose.
Reduce your chances of getting these cancers by:
•Not smoking or chewing tobacco.
•Limiting alcohol consumption.
•Having a healthier low meat, low fat diet, rich in vegetables and fruit with servings of bread, cereals or beans every day.
•A high proportion of oropharyngeal cancers in non-smokers and younger adults have been associated with HPV. The mode of transmission may be frequent oral sex in adolescents and young adults.
At Hartley Dental we will screen you for oral cancer at all of your Hartley Mouth Reviews. We will take care to look thoroughly and methodically in your mouth and around the head and neck area for possible signs of cancer. On many occasions we offer reassurance to individuals who have a concern as we can point out normal dental and oral anatomy or diagnose a common complaint without the need for referral. If you have any question about mouth cancer we will be happy to answer then at any of your dental appointments.