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November is Mouth Cancer Action Month

Signs & symptoms of mouth cancer

Mouth cancer can often be spotted in its early stages by your dentist during a thorough mouth examination.

This happens during your routine dental check-up.

Mouth cancers can start anywhere in the mouth. This includes:

  • lips

  • front of the tongue

  • gums

  • inside lining of the cheeks and lips

  • floor and roof of the mouth

  • behind the wisdom teeth.

The main causes of mouth cancer are drinking heavily and smoking or chewing tobacco. Long term exposure to sunlight and sunbeds (UV light) can increase the risk of lip cancer.

The most common symptoms are an ulcer or sore in the mouth or on the lip that doesn’t heal. Other symptoms include bleeding in the mouth, weight loss or a lump in your neck.

If your GP or dentist thinks your symptoms could be caused by cancer, they will refer you to a specialist. If your only symptom is a lump in your neck, you may be referred to a neck lump clinic. Your mouth will be examined and you might also have a biopsy, or an MRI, CT or ultrasound scan to diagnose the cancer.

Mouth cancer is staged using the TNM or number staging system. Staging describes the size of the cancer and if it has spread. Doctors also decide the grade of the cancer (how quickly it might develop).

Treatments for mouth cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Three signs and symptoms not to ignore are:

  • Mouth ulcers which do not heal in three weeks.

  • Red and white patches in the mouth.

  • Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.

Click on the Be Mouthaware picture for more information on checking for signs of mouth cancer and the routine to followfrom the Oral Health Foundations Mouth Cancer Action Month website

Prevention and risk factors

Click on the poster for more on the information mouth cancer and risk factors from the Oral Health Foundations Mouth Cancer Action Month website

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