08 Dec

Health experts urge patients to be vigilant to lower oral cancer risks

Health experts are urging the public to be vigilant to lower the risk of developing advanced oral cancer.

Oral cancer screening is usually part of routine dental checks, but with many patients unable to book check-ups at the moment due to treatment backlogs, experts are eager to encourage the public to be mouth-aware.

Although mouth cancer has become more prevalent in recent years, studies from the Oral Health Foundation suggest that most UK adults are unaware of the main symptoms. There are concerns that many cases could go undetected while patients are unable to see their dentist regularly.

The main symptoms of oral cancer include slow-healing mouth ulcers, difficulty swallowing, abnormal lumps or swelling in the mouth or throat, persistent hoarseness and a sore throat and red or white patches in the mouth.

The NHS website encourages anyone who has these symptoms to contact their GP. It is particularly important to take action if the symptoms last for more than three weeks or the individual is a smoker or heavy drinker.

The most significant risk factors for oral cancer are smoking and drinking. People who smoke and drink are more than 30-times more likely to develop mouth cancer. Additional risk factors include exposure to the HPV (human papilloma virus) and a poor diet.

Patients who notice changes in the mouth are strongly encouraged to contact their GP and make an appointment. If there is a risk of oral cancer, early diagnosis can increase the chances of survival by up to 90 percent, as the risk of cancer spreading is much lower. If cancer has not spread, it is usually possible to treat mouth cancer.

Oral cancer affects the soft tissue in the mouth and throat. Cancerous cells can develop in the tongue, along the gum line and lips, inside the cheeks and in the salivary glands.