November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month.
Around 8,300 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK, which is about 1 in every 50 cancers diagnosed.
Symptoms of mouth 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
- sometimes, white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue These can be early signs of cancer, so they should also be checked
- changes in speech, such as a lisp
See a GP or dentist if these symptoms do not get better within 3 weeks, particularly if you drink or smoke.
Preventing mouth cancer
The most effective ways of preventing mouth cancer from happening, or stopping it from coming back after successful treatment, are:
- Don’t leave a mouth ulcer unattended for more than three weeks.
- Don’t ignore any unusual lumps or swellings or red and white patches in your mouth.
- Regularly check your own mouth, lips, cheeks, head and neck for anything out of the ordinary.
- Not smoking or using tobacco in other ways, such as not chewing tobacco
- Ensuring you do not drink more than the recommended weekly guideline for alcohol
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes fresh vegetables (particularly tomatoes), citrus fruits, olive oil and fish
It’s also important that you have regular dental check-ups. A dentist can often spot the early stages of mouth cancer.
Find out more about how to find an NHS dentist.