07 Dec

Charity urges the public to watch out for mouth cancer symptoms as cases hit record high

The Oral Health Foundation is urging the public to watch out for mouth cancer symptoms, as UK cases hit a record high.

Following its annual Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign, which ran throughout November, the charity is calling for people to keep a close eye on their mouths and get symptoms checked out. More than 8,800 new cases of oral cancer were diagnosed in the UK in 2021. This represents an increase of 34% in a decade and 103% in the last twenty years.

During Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Oral Health Foundation worked with other organisations, including the Mouth Cancer Foundation, to raise awareness of the causes and symptoms of mouth cancer and encourage people to attend screening and check themselves at home. A simple self-examination could make the difference between life and death.

Symptoms of mouth cancer include slow-healing mouth ulcers and sores, red or white patches in the mouth and throat, abnormal swelling and lumps, difficulty swallowing, a persistent sore throat and hoarseness. Other signs to look out for include unexplained oral pain and loose teeth and changes in the voice.

Early diagnosis has helped to boost survival rates for many forms of cancer in the UK in the last decade, but rates have stalled for mouth cancer sufferers. One of the main reasons is that most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This means that cancerous cells have spread and treatment is less likely to be successful. 

The Oral Health Foundation, together with other charities and dental teams across the country, is working to encourage people to be mindful of signs and symptoms and get checked if they do have any concerns. Patients can see their dentist or their GP. Early diagnosis can increase survival rates by up to 90%.

The most significant risk factors for mouth cancer include smoking, heavy or frequent drinking and a poor diet. HPV infection can also increase the risk of mouth cancer. Many people who develop oral cancer don’t have risk factors.