Figures released by Public Health Wales show that mouth cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent.
The latest statistics show an increase in the number of recorded cases; however, there has been an improvement in one-year survival rates. There has been little change in five-year survival figures.
The report also revealed that more cases are being diagnosed, but most are at an advanced stage, which explains why five-year survival rates have stalled. Like most forms of cancer, the later mouth cancer is diagnosed, the lower the chances of successful treatment.
Director of the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Dyfed Wyn Huws, describe the situation as “worrying”, especially as smoking rates are falling in Wales. Smoking is a major risk factor for mouth cancer, but obviously, there are other factors that people need to be wary of, such as alcohol consumption and exposure to HPV (human papilloma virus) infection.
Consultant in dental public health, Anup Karki, said that it was imperative to try and improve early diagnosis rates to boost survival statistics. Early diagnosis means early treatment, and this means doctors can hopefully target cancers before they spread.
Warning signs to look out for include swelling and abnormal lumps in the mouth or throat, red or white patches in the mouth, loose teeth without history of gum disease, and ulcers that take a long time (more than 2 weeks) to heal. If you notice any of these signs, see your GP or your dentist. It’s also essential to attend routine check-ups. Dentists are trained to spot the early signs of mouth cancer, and they perform routine checks every time you have an appointment.