November is Mouth Cancer Action Month – supported by the Mouth Cancer Foundation and Oral Health Foundation – and this year, we wanted to do something that would help raise awareness of this illness. Since the start of lockdown in 2020, referrals have fallen by around 65%, as most cases of mouth cancer are referred by dentists. Therefore, it’s important that you are aware of what to look out for.
Not many people in the UK know the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer despite the fact that there are over 8700 new instances of mouth cancer each year. Annually, over 2700 lives are lost to this illness, which amounts to, approximately, one person every three hours. It is most common in people over the age 55 and is often caused by lifestyle choices, so it can be a simple cancer to prevent with some simple lifestyle changes.
Although mouth cancer referrals are most often made when you visit the dentist, there are ways for you to spot initial symptoms at home. The Mouth Cancer Foundation recommends performing a self-check every month; these self-checks are simple and should only take around two minutes.
There are seven areas of your head that you should check, and these are the things you should be looking out for.
- Face: Have you noticed any swelling? If you turn your head from side to side this will stretch your skin over your muscles, making any lumps easier to spot.
- Neck: Feel along the large muscle on either side of your neck with your fingers and check if there’s any swelling and make sure that everything feels the same on both sides.
- Lips: Feel the inside of your mouth and pull your lips upwards and down. Look out for any sores or changes in colour on the skin, especially any white or red patches.
- Gums: Using your fingers, examine your gums and feel for anything unusual or unexpected.
- Cheeks: Use your fingers to check the inside of your cheek, look out for patches of tenderness, lumps, or ulcers. Make sure you do this on both sides.
- Tongue: Stick out your tongue and look out for any swelling, ulcers, or changes in colour.
- Floor and roof of mouth: Tilt your head back and open your mouth as wide as you can to inspect the roof of your mouth. Check for any changes in colour or ulcers. You should also check for changes in texture with your finger.
It’s especially important for you to be aware if you’ve had any of these symptoms for longer than three weeks, so if you have any concerns whatsoever please book an appointment with us straight away and we’ll check it out for you.
Like most things, usually these signs and symptoms are nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to check.