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The growing concerns regarding oral cancer and what you can do to fight it

  • Despite not being discussed in the media as regularly as other cancers, oral cancer is on the rise in the UK and abroad.

    By Naomi Todd

Who is affected?

People are often unaware that a visit to the dentist could prevent or provide early warning signs in relation to possible oral cancers. However, oral cancer diagnoses are increasing with 640,000 new cases every year. Worryingly the UK makes up for 8,300 of those new diagnoses each year, which accounts for about 1 in every 50 cancers diagnosed in the UK.

Oral cancer is far more common in adults, with more than 2 in 3 cases of oral cancer developing in those over the age of 55; and only 12.5% of cases concerning those younger than 50. It is also the case that significantly more men are affected by oral cancer. As early as 2011 it was recorded that 17.7 men in every 100,000 could experience mouth cancer, whilst the same number for women in the UK was just 7.9. Further morein the United States, it is expected that 38,140 men will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019, compared with 14,860 women.

Causes of oral cancer

Cancer Research UK has suggested that a major cause of oral cancer is smoking, with as much as 60% of oral cancers in the UK being caused by smoking. There is also concern that those exposed to second hand smoke, whether in the work place or at home have an increased risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer. Recent studies have suggested that vaping could also increase the risk of oral cancer.

Another known cause is alcohol consumption. Cancer Research UK has suggested that 30% of mouth cancers can be caused by regular alcohol consumption.

The NHS notes that the best steps that someone can take in order to avoid the risks of oral cancer include not smoking, not drinking more than the recommended weekly guideline amount and eating a balanced diet.

How to spot oral cancer

The symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • mouth ulcers that are painful and do not heal within several weeks;
  • unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth or the neck that do not go away;
  • unexplained loose teeth or sockets that do not heal after extractions;
  • unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue;
  • white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue can sometimes be early signs of cancer, so they should also be checked; and
  • changes in speech, such as a lisp.

If you experience any of these symptoms over a period of three weeks it is important that you go to your Dentist or GP; especially if you smoke or drink.

If you have any questions in relation to oral cancer, or if you have a potential dental negligence claim that you would like to discuss, then please do not hesitate to contact the dental negligence team.

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