Mouth Cancer: Symptoms, Treatments And Risk Factors Explained
Mouth cancer, although relatively uncommon (the NHS says it accounts for one in 50 of all cancer cases) is still a potentially fatal disease, due to the late stage at which it’s often diagnosed.
As the survival rate for stage 1 of mouth cancer is 90%, it’s worth finding out the health warning signs to catch it early.
Jean-Pierre Jeannon, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at London Bridge Hospital told HuffPost UK: “Mouth cancer usually presents itself as a persistent ulcer or lump in the mouth.
“It is different from an aphthous or stress ulcer which comes and goes and affects different parts of the mouth. A cancerous ulcer is often painless and stays in the same place.
“A neck lump due to a swollen lymph node can also be the first sign of mouth cancer. A persistent red or white patch in the mouth can also be a sign of an early or pre-cancer,” he added.
How can you reduce your chance of developing the disease?
Jeannon said “prevention is by far the best policy in avoiding cancer, and mouth cancer is no exception”. Preventative measures, which are most effective, include:
:: Stopping smoking.
:: Avoiding excess alcohol consumption.
:: Maintain healthy teeth – a regular dental check up.
:: HPV virus which also causes cervical cancer is a risk for mouth cancer so safe sex (including oral sex) reduces your risk of developing mouth cancer.
On that last note Hormone Specialist, Jen Landa, commented on HuffPost that “the percentage of mouth and throat cancers caused by HPV is rising sharply, from only 16% in the 1980s to approximately 73% of the mouth and throat cancers in the year 2000”.
“The incidence of mouth and throat cancers is rising as well. From 1988 to 2004, there was a 28% increase in the risk of mouth and throat cancers, primarily in men ages 50 to 59,” she added.
How is the disease normally treated?
There are two treatment types, as suggested by Jeannon. The main treatment type requires surgery in order to remove the tumour. This may also result in reconstructive surgery.
Additionally, depending on the severity of the cancer, radiotherapy (x-ray treatment) may also be needed.
The NHS also states chemotherapy as an option.
Are there different types of mouth cancer?
Jeannon revealed that “most cancers are the same type and arise from the skin lining the inside of the mouth which are termed squamous cells carcinoma.
“It can affect any party of the mouth lip, tongue or floor of mouth and tends to be an aggressive form of cancer so the earlier the cancer is detected the better the outcome.
“The survival for stage 1 (earliest form) is 90% whereas for stage 4 (most advanced) less than 20% of patients survive.”
Who is most at risk of developing mouth cancer?
Men are three times more likely to get mouth cancers compared to women. It tends to affect older people so the disease is rare under the age of 40.
Heavy alcohol drinkers and smokers are most at risk.
Women who have not received HPV vaccine are also more at risk.