Mouth Cancer

Every time you attend for a Dental Health Check at Market Place Dentistry , your dentist will carry out a visual screen for any signs of mouth cancer. If you have any concerns or questions, please ask at your appointment, or contact us to make an appointment.

How common is mouth cancer?

There were around 7000 new cases of mouth cancer in the UK in 2011, making it the 16th most common cancer. The number of cases of mouth cancer has been steadily increasing since the 1970s, probably due to the increase in prevalence of smoking, alcohol, and HPV infection.

Who gets mouth cancer?

Anybody can get mouth cancer, although the likelihood increases with age, and for males. However, the prevalence of mouth cancer is increasing in the younger generation and in females, probably due to increased alcohol consumption.

What are the risk factors of mouth cancer?

Though you cannot control your age or gender, there are several other things that can increase your risk:

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes
  • Drinking alcohol above the recommended maximum levels (14 units/wk)
  • Tobacco and Alcohol together have a multiplicatory effect, significantly increasing the risk of mouth cancer

Other risk factors include:

  • Chewing tobacco, betel, guthka or paan
  • UV exposure on the face can cause cancer of the lips
  • HPV transmitted to the mouth via oral sex

How can I reduce my risk of mouth cancer?

There are some simple things you can do to minimise your risk:

  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumtion
  • Practise safe sex with regard to HPV transmission
  • Visit your dentist regularly
  • Eat a varied, healthy diet with at least 5 portions of fruit or veg per day

What are the signs of mouth cancer?

Your dentist will always be looking out for anything suspicious in the mouth. In particular, we look out for:

  • Painless ulcers that do not heal within 2 weeks.
  • A red or white patch that cannot be otherwise explained.
  • A lump that cannot be otherwise explained.

We are always happy to address any concerns you may have, so if you would like us to have a closer look at anything, please mention it at your Dental Health Check or call us to make an appointment.

How is mouth cancer treated?

The most important aspect of any cancer treatment is early detection. This is one of the reasons why it is important to attend regularly for Dental Health Checks.

If your dentist does spot anything potentially cancerous, they will refer you to an oral surgeon for an assessment. This may involve having a biopsy taken (a small section of the area is removed and checked under the microscope for signs of cancer) and blood tests.

This will allow for further treatment planning. Often the cancer will be surgically removed and the area monitored. More serious cases may require more extensive treatment.

If a cancer is spotted early, and the affected area is small, the chance of a successful treatment is good.

Useful links

Cancer Research: Oral cancer statistics

NHS choices: Mouth cancer

Mouth Cancer Foundation