In the UK, more than 7,800 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year and globally there are in excess of 300,000 new cases every year. November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, a charity campaign, which aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and make a difference by saving thousands of lives through early detection and prevention. I am attending its launch at the House of Commons today.
The charity aims to raise awareness to get more mouth cancers diagnosed at an early stage by increasing education of the risk factors and signs and symptoms to encourage everyone to discuss these with their dentist.
Although there are risk factors heavily linked to the disease, mouth cancer can affect anyone – that’s why it’s so important that we all know what to look out for. Mouth cancer can often be spotted in its early stages by your dental team during a thorough mouth examination. If mouth cancer is diagnosed early, then the chances of a cure are good. Too many people come forward too late because they do not have regular mouth examinations.
Examine yourself regularly. Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, any unusual red or white patches, lumps in your neck or jaw area, or persistent hoarseness are all reasons for asking your dental team or doctor to examine you. There is probably nothing seriously wrong but an early diagnosis could save your life.
You can help reduce your chances of developing mouth cancer by:
- stopping smoking and cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink
- eating a balanced, healthy diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This can also help protect against many other cancers
- visiting your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.
When you visit your dentist, he or she will examine the inside of your mouth and your tongue with the help of a small mirror. The examination will also look at your neck and underneath your jaw. Dentists will carry out this examination as part of a routine dental check-up. Remember, your dental team can see parts of your mouth that you cannot see easily yourself.