The early signs of mouth cancer can often be seen. When these changes are found early there is a very good chance of a cure. So be aware of changes in your mouth and check regularly for the changes listed below. If they last longer than three weeks, report them to your doctor or dentist without delay. Try to come for a check-up at least once a year, preferably twice. Early treatment is simpler and more effective and many people can be cured Look for the following changes. They may not be painful but you should still see your doctor or dentist if they last longer than three weeks.
The most common signs of cancer
an ulcer or sore in your mouth or on your tongue
a red or white patch in your mouth
an unexplained pain in your mouth or ear
an unexplained lump in your neck
a sore or painful throat
a croaky voice or difficulty swallowing
If you notice any of these changes and they last longer than three weeks, tell your doctor or dentist without delay. Usually they are not caused by cancer but it is better to play safe. Sometimes the early signs of mouth cancer do not cause pain or discomfort but they can be seen. So it is important to check your mouth for any of the changes. From time to time, spend a few moments in front of the mirror looking in your mouth. Check your tongue, gums, lining of your cheeks, lips, under your tongue and the roof of your mouth. But remember your dentist can easily check the parts you cannot see. Dentists have special training to help them identify health problems and are often the first to spot early changes in their patients. As part of a regular examination, dentists check for the early warning signs of mouth cancer. They will refer patients with suspect changes to hospital for further tests. If you are over 40, smoke, chew tobacco or betel nut or drink heavily, ask your dentist to check your mouth once a year. It is important to visit the dentist regularly even if you no longer have your own teeth. Our lifestyle choices have a big effect on our risk of mouth cancer. The most important causes of mouth cancer are: smoking tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes), regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol and chewing tobacco or betel nut.
People who use tobacco and drink too much alcohol have the highest risk of mouth cancer. Up to three-quarters of mouth cancers are caused this way. The best thing is to stop completely. Help is available - talk to your doctor or call Quit-line on 0800 00 22 00 . Nicotine replacement products help many people to stop using tobacco.
You can buy them at your local chemist, or ask your doctor if you can have them on prescription. Mouth cancer is more common in men than women and is rare in people under 40. If you drink alcohol, try to follow these guidelines:
• Women should drink less than two units of alcohol each day
• Men should drink less than three units of alcohol each day
Many alcoholic drinks contain more than one unit:
• A pint of premium lager, beer or cider (5% vol) contains three units
• A standard 175ml glass of wine (11-12% vol) contains two units
• A double measure of spirits (40% vol) using the35ml measure contains three units
Try to eat at least five different portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Increase the amount of red, yellow and orange fruit, salads and green vegetables in your diet.