Be Mouth Cancer Aware


To support Mouth Cancer Awareness month, the Head and Neck Cancer Team in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust are encouraging people to be more aware of the early signs and symptoms of mouth cancer and the main risk factors.

Anyone can get mouth cancer, but most cases are linked to lifestyle choices and certain risk factors. Mouth cancer can affect the lips, tongue, cheek lining, gums, palate and floor of the mouth.
Mouth cancer rates are continuing to rise in both men and women, especially in the under 50s, with more young people developing mouth cancer than ever before. The latest figures show that more than 8,300 people in the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year. Of concern, the number of people developing mouth cancer in the UK has risen by over 30% since early 1990s.  In Northern Ireland, approximately 170 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year, and sadly more than one third of those diagnosed with mouth cancer will die from the disease. Every year mouth cancer kills more people than cervical or testicular cancer.

Tobacco use is considered as the main cause of mouth cancer. Drinking alcohol to excess can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer but people who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.  Experts have suggested that a sexually transmitted virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) could rival tobacco and alcohol as a leading risk factor for mouth cancer in the next 10 years.  HPV can be transmitted via oral sex and is higher in those with more sexual partners.  Research indicates that people with mouth cancer linked to the HPV may have a greater chance of survival.  If you have any concerns about changes in your mouth visit your dentist as soon as possible.  Early detection is key to survival.

You can reduce your risk of getting mouth cancer by:
•           Not smoking
•           Minimal or no alcohol
•           Eating a healthy diet
•           Avoiding casual sex
•           Regular dental check-ups
Unfortunately 70% of mouth cancers are detected at a late stage because people are not aware of the warning signs. Late presentation of mouth cancer results in lower chances of survival. When detected early, mouth cancer patients can experience good survival rates of over 80%.  Therefore, ‘EARLY DETECTION COULD SAVE LIVES’. Dentists are trained to screen for signs of mouth cancer. Regular dental check-ups allow the dentist to look for any early warning signs of mouth cancer.  As well as attending your dentist, it is recommended that you look for mouth cancer.  Self-examination is a simple, potentially life-saving process.

Look out for:
•           Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks
•           Red and white patches in the mouth
•           Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or neck area
The key message is ‘IF IN DOUBT, GET CHECKED OUT’.



The Head and Neck Cancer Team