The rate of mouth cancer is rising. There are now approximately 7500 new cases of oral cancer every year in the UK. When detected at a late stage chances of survival are poor. However when detected early the chances of survival are very good.
Early oral cancers usually present as a white patch, a red patch, an ulcer, a lump or a raised area. Lip cancer usually appears as a crusty area with a raw surface. It is therefore important to have any new or changing lesions in your mouth checked by an oral healthcare professional.
The main risk factors for developing oral cancer are smoking, excess alcohol consumption and pan chewing. There is also a significant rise in the number of young people developing oral cancer. Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of cancer of the lower lip. Sexually acquired human papillomavirus (HPV) has also been shown to be a risk factor for oral cancer.
If you have a lesion which looks suspicious of being an oral cancer then a biopsy will be required to confirm the diagnosis. If found to be a cancer then treatments include surgery and/or radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Early detection and treatment have been shown to significantly improve the survival rate and outcome.
To reduce your risk of developing oral cancer –
- Avoid tobacco
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Women should not drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day and men should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day.
- Use lip balm with sun block in the sun
- Eat a healthy diet with at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Have your mouth regularly screened by an oral healthcare professional