This week is Mouth Cancer Awareness week. Oral cancer is the 6th most common malignancy reported worldwide with a high mortality rate. It can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus and other sites located in the head and neck area. Oral cancer is very challenging to treat as most cases present in the later stages. In the very early stages, mouth cancers can be almost invisible making it easy to ignore. At current rates the incidence of mouth cancer is likely to double within a generation.
Around a fifth of the UK’s population smoke and the habit is still considered the leading cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease, including mouth cancer. Smoking helps to transform saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous. Around two thirds of smokers want to quit.
Drinking to excess can increase mouth cancer risks by four times. As alcohol aids the absorption of tobacco into the mouth, those who smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease.
Around a third of cases are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet. It is recommended that people eat a healthy, balanced diet including five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Increasing evidence also suggests that Omega 3, found in foods such as eggs and fish can help lower risks, as can foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
Chewing or Smokeless tobacco
Smokeless tobacco is normally defined as any tobacco product that is placed in the mouth or nose and not burned. Although some people believe this type of tobacco is safer than smoking, the reality is that it is much more dangerous. The types of smokeless tobacco products most used in the UK often contain a mix of ingredients including slaked lime, areca nut and spices, flavourings and sweeteners. terminology for smokeless tobacco varies.
Smokeless tobacco is used particularly by South Asian Communities, especially women. The incidence of mouth cancer is significantly greater among South Asian women. Other parts of South Asian communities are also more at risk from the effects of smokeless tobacco including: people of Bangladeshi origin; those in older age groups; and people from lower socioeconomic groups.
EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES
The five year survival rate of mouth cancer patients is just 50%.
BUT early diagnosis gives patients a 90% survival.
Regular visit to your dentist will ensure you are professionally screened for signs of mouth cancer. Talk to your dentists about the process and mouth cancer risk factors.
Self-examination is a simple, potentially life-saving process.
Look out for:
Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks