I have been unlucky enough to have diagnosed 3 cases of Mouth Cancer in my 23 years working as a dentist. Unfortunately November is National Oral Cancer month and I have diagnosed another suspect case. Ulcers that form in your mouth for no apparent reason, are painless, getting larger, have a raised border and a sunken center need to be investigated. If diagnosed early then the chances are they can be treated successfully but if ignored will kill you. If treated early before it has spread the success rate is almost 90%. Around 5000 cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed every year.
Mouth cancer is most common in the Cheek lining, the floor of the mouth, under the tongue, the gums and the roof of the mouth. All these areas are checked by your dentist at your 6 monthly dental health assessments.
Smokers and drinkers appear high on the at risk list but chronic irritation form poorly fitting dentures, human papilloma virus infection, some immuno suppresants and poor dental hygiene. Men are twice as likely to get mouth cancer than women, more so in men older than 40 years of age.
In addition to ulcers mouth cancer can present as a lump or swelling. It may affect your chewing, swallowing and speech. If in doubt see you GP or dentist. If concerned they will probably refer you for further tests such as Biopsy or may be a CT Scan to see if the problem has spread.
Treatment usually requires surgical removal of the affect area and may additionally involve radiotherapy or chemo therapy.
Can you prevent mouth cancer? Well may be not, but avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, keeping your mouth clean and healthy and having dental problems corrected will greatly reduce the chances of you developing this disease.
Finally keep your appointments with your dentist regularly as we are the ones who can most readily identify if something is amiss and need further investigation.