Mouth cancer is a tough subject to tackle, but as with all cancers, awareness is key. With over 700 cases of mouth, head and neck cancer diagnosed in Ireland every year (source: Mouth Cancer Awareness), it is very important to know all the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Early detection saves lives, and your regular dental check-ups can play an important role in staying on top of any indications that something isn’t right. If you are looking for a dentist in Ballincollig, Cork, Guiney Dental can help. With our award winning team of friendly professionals, we are experts at identifying warning signs and helping our clients stay in tip-top health. We believe that sharing important awareness information about conditions such as mouth cancer will improve the health and wellbeing of our whole community. Here is our guide for what you need to know about mouth cancer.
What is mouth cancer?
Cancer is caused by a change in the genes that control the way that cells function. These changes can happen because of external factors, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, but they can also happen because of a genetic predisposition. The terms mouth or oral cancer can refer to cancers of many body parts, including the lips, tongue, gums, hard palate, cheeks, and floor of the mouth. Oropharyngeal cancer refers to cancers of the soft palate, back and side wall of the throat, the base of the tongue and the tonsils. All these are areas that would be checked by your dentist during a routine visit, meaning early detection of any problems is more likely.
The most common tissue type of mouth cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, but lymphomas, salivary gland tumours, melanomas and sarcomas are also possible.
Who is likely to get mouth cancer?
Anyone can get mouth cancer. Although it is most common in those aged over 55, the number of cases in younger people is increasing. It used to be more frequent amongst men, but cases amongst women have also been increasing, with case numbers overall set to increase by 30% over the next 25 years (source: Mouth Cancer Awareness).
What increases the risk of getting mouth cancer?
- Smoking – those who smoke have been shown to be at increased risk of many types of disease, including mouth cancer.
- Alcohol – drinking less will be beneficial to your overall health
- HPV – Human Papilloma Virus
- UV exposure – including the use of sunbeds and unprotected exposure to strong sunlight.
- Poor diet – a lack of vitamins can increase your risk of illness.
Can you reduce your chances of getting mouth cancer?
There are a number of lifestyle choices which can help reduce your vulnerability to mouth cancer. You should:
- Stop smoking – there are now numerous programmes and support groups if you need help to quit. Smoking is very damaging to your overall health.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Eat a healthy diet – try and make it well balanced and include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
- Protect yourself from the sun – avoid long exposure, always wear a high SPF of at least 30, and remember to wear a protective lip balm as well as normal face and skin sun cream.
- Check your mouth. Make a habit of observing your mouth regularly, for instance, while you are brushing and flossing.
- Ensure that you have regular dental check-ups – your dentist is an expert who is skilled at recognising early symptoms. This applies even if you have no teeth and wear dentures – you still need a dentist!
- Have the HPV vaccine – the Human Papilloma Virus has been strongly linked to cancer, and the presence of the virus can indicate that cancer may develop. The virus is common, and easily passed between people, especially through sexual contact and oral sex. Children are now vaccinated against HPV and this can protect them in adult life.
Which symptoms could indicate mouth cancer?
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should contact your dentist, as they could be a symptom of mouth cancer.
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness, pain, or loss of feeling in any area of the mouth, face or neck
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing, or restricted movement of the jaw or tongue
- Sores, rough spots, lumps, or irritation in the mouth
- Red, white, or speckled red and white patches in the mouth
- Hoarseness, sore throat, or change in voice that does not go back to normal
- Ear pain
- Loose teeth or changes in the way your teeth or dentures fit
How is mouth cancer treated?
If, when you go to your dentist, they are concerned about your symptoms, they will suggest you have further investigative tests. These can include MRI scans, x-rays, biopsy, ultrasound, and endoscopy. Should you then be diagnosed with mouth cancer, your treatment will be personal to you, and depend on the type and stage of your cancer, and also your overall state of health. Your treatment plan could include surgery to remove the cancerous tumours, radiotherapy to kill the cancer using x-rays, and chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells with drugs.
If you are concerned about mouth cancer or any other oral or dental issue, get in touch with Guiney Dental. Our dental practice, based in Ballincollig, Cork, prides itself on educating and caring for our community, to reduce the risks of problems such as mouth cancer. With our friendly team of dental professionals, and our award winning service, at Guiney Dental we can help restore your smile.