Mouth cancer is still infrequent with only around 6200 cases currently diagnosed in the UK each year, but it is becoming increasingly common.
Research shows that men over the age at 40 are at greatest risk, but women and younger people do occasionally present with this disease. Although in many cases the cause is not known, mouth cancer is associated with smoking and heavy drinking.
The lips, tongue, cheeks and throat can all be affected and the most usual indication of the disease is a painless ulcer that does not heal as expected. Sometimes the first sign may be a red or white patch inside the mouth. If you have a patch or an ulcer that doesn’t heal within three weeks it is very important to visit your dentist.
The chances of a full recovery following mouth cancer are very good if it is caught in the early stages. Your dentist inspects your mouth thoroughly for mouth cancer at every check-up and might also examine your neck for swellings. If your dentist has any concern that you may have mouth cancer, you will be rapidly referred to a specialist who will re-examine you and, if indicated, will organise further tests. Although this is a worrying time, the majority of such referrals are not diagnosed as cancer.
For more information on mouth cancer and related symptoms, visit the Cancer Research UK information page here.