Mouth cancer: What are the causes and symptoms?
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Mouth cancer is becoming increasingly common in the UK, with annual diagnoses almost doubling since 2001. Spotting the cancer early is absolutely essential for the best treatment, so it’s important to be aware of the most common symptoms.
The cancer itself is caused by cells growing out of control inside the mouth, according to Bupa Dental Care.
It can affect just about anywhere inside the mouth, including the salivary glands and tonsils.
There are a number of key signs to look out for, including developing strange patches inside the mouth.
These patches might appear particularly red or white, and could develop on the lining of the mouth, or actually on the tongue.
“You should check your mouth regularly for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer,” said Bupa Dental Care dentist Dr Karim Abdel-Khalek.
These signs could include “red and white patches inside the mouth; ulcers or sores that do not heal within three weeks; an abnormal lump in the neck; persistent pain in the throat or ear; difficulty swallowing, or speech changes such as hoarseness”.
Karim told Express.co.uk: “It’s important to remember that these signs can occur with many other conditions.
“If you notice any of these, don’t panic, but contact your dentist immediately to get checked out.”
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Most of the symptoms could simply be caused by an infection inside the mouth, added the NHS.
Still, it’s best to speak to a doctor or dentist if your symptoms last longer than three weeks.
It’s particularly important to get it checked out if you’re a smoker, or drink lots of alcohol.
Smokers have double the risk of developing mouth cancer, while frequent drinkers are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Dr Abdel-Khalek added: “Last year, I was carrying out an oral screening check on one of my patients and noticed a suspicious ulcer in their mouth.
“After explaining the situation, I referred them to hospital to get it looked at, and the ulcer turned out to be cancerous.
“Thankfully, the patient had the ulcer removed and is now cancer-free.
“But I can’t stress enough the importance of early diagnosis.”
You could lower your risk of mouth cancer by simply making some healthier lifestyle choices, he said.
Give up smoking or drinking, and don’t forget to make regular trips for a dental check-up.
Dentists check for mouth cancer symptoms at every appointment, and spotting the signs early is the best way to avoid serious complications from the disease.
If you’re ever in doubt or worried about the changes inside your mouth, speak to a dentist straight away.
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