Mouth cancer - how to spot the signs

Dr Bigg News: Mouth cancer - how to spot the signs
Oral cancer can affect all the tissues of the mouth; the lips, the tongue, inside the cheeks and the throat or larynx. It's more common in people over 40, particulary men, but cases are on the rise in women and younger patients. 6,500 cases are diagnosed each year and two thirds of these survive, but worryingly the total number of cases is rising.

In some cases the causes of mouth cancer are unknown, but there is a strong link with smoking cigarettes (or pipes) and drinking alcohol, particularly if the two are combined. The increase in mouth cancer in younger patients has been linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.

One of the signs of mouth cancer is a painless ulcer which doesn't heal normally. Other signs are white or red patches that are present for some time, unexplained swellings in the mouth or neck, numbness and difficulty in talking, chewing or swallowing. Lip cancer can show as an ulcer or swelling on the lip border.

To protect yourself from mouth cancer you can:
  • Examine your mouth for ulcers that are not healing normally.
  • Attend your regular dentist check ups - even if you have dentures.
  • Use sunscreen on your lips.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including fruit and vegetables.
  • Reduce smoking and drinking alcohol as much as possible.

It's helpful to take a photo of anything that you feel unsure about, then this can be compared over time for any changes.

For more information you can visit the British Dental Health Foundation or make an appointment by calling 01993 831 396 or email
Posted: 4 April 2019