If in doubt, get checked out. It’s a saying that you may have heard before. Be prepared to hear it again in November and we hope you can help us share this simple but potentially life-saving message.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the United Kingdom
Mouth Cancer Action Month is all about encouraging Brits to be proactive and act today so that we might have a better tomorrow.
Cancer can appear in different areas all over the body. Many people have heard of breast cancer and testicular cancer and are aware of what symptoms to look out for. Not enough of us know that cancer can appear in the mouth.
A person is diagnosed with mouth cancer once almost every hour. A heart-breaking statistic that doesn’t even begin paint a complete picture of how much devastation and pain a mouth cancer diagnosis can cause to a person and their loved ones.
We want to prevent as many lives being lost to this horrible disease as possible. Without your help, the mouth cancer clock will continue to strike the hour mark and times will change dramatically for countless more people.
Your support for this campaign is vital. Mouth cancer needs to be on the map and the more awareness there is throughout the country in the present, the more lives we will save in the future.
Why is Mouth Cancer Action Month important?
November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign is important because, with your support, we can save lives from being taken by cancer of the mouth. It’s that simple. We understand that there are too many Brits out there that admit to having little to no knowledge of the disease. Our campaign looks to address this and arm people with the information they need to protect themselves and the people around them from mouth cancer.
Our aim is to create a more mouthaware nation. We want people to understand how to spot the common early warning signs of the disease. Just like we pay a lot of attention to other areas of our body, we need to start keeping a close eye on what’s going on inside our mouth.
We are all at risk of mouth cancer, so this really is a campaign for everybody.
It is really important that more people are aware of their mouth cancer risk and why a trip to the dentist really could save our life.
At every single routine dental check-up you have at your local surgery, your dentist should be conducting a quick check of your mouth, head and neck areas for any signs of mouth cancer. So, visiting your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, will increase the chances of cancer being caught early. If you fall into a high-risk group for the disease, these routine checks are even more important.
Action is what we want to promote this month. Being proactive rather than reactive. Taking measures to avoid the problem, rather than needing a cure. Let’s unite and talk about this disease which threatens to take away our voice.
On this note, our campaign is also about showing solidarity. Throughout November and beyond, we stand together against mouth cancer and in support of countless people who have been impacted in some way by this terrible disease.
We hope you will join us in our fight against mouth cancer. Learn about the disease today, share this information with the people around you and help us save lives.
Lowering your risk
Mouth cancer is a disease that does not discriminate. Regardless of your individual circumstances, it’s important to be aware of the disease and understand that it could happen to anyone of us.
With that being said, it’s also important to know what can increase your risk of developing the disease. Most cases, around 90%, can be linked back to lifestyle factors.
The biggest culprit currently is smoking. It is common knowledge now that smoking is bad news for your body as a whole. It damages your heart, your lungs and increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, including mouth cancer. There
are umpteen reasons to stub out cigarettes for good.
Whether you have cigarettes and cigars or consume smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutkha and paan, your mouth cancer risk is higher regardless.
Drinking too much alcohol can also increaseyour risk of developing mouth cancer. It’s so important to stick to the recommended weekly limit of 14 units of alcohol for both men and women.
Regular visits to the dentist are essential for those who fall into either of these two brackets. For those who smoke tobacco and consume too much alcohol, frequent visits to the dentist should be high on your list of priorities. Doing both increases your risk of mouth cancer by up to 30 times.
Over recent years there has been a rise in the number of cancer cases caused by the human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV. It’s a common virus that around 80% of us will develop at some point in our lives. It is spread through oral sex and most strands of the virus are harmless, but others have the potential to cause several different diseases, including mouth cancer.
Reduce your chances of contracting HPV by practicing safe sex and limiting the number of sexual partners you have. Recent research has suggested that HPV will soon rival smoking and drinking as a main cause of this horrible disease.
However, the new vaccination programme introduced from this September may put a halt to this. Both boys and girls will now be offered a jab against HPV free from the NHS. This is an injection that will save countless lives from HPV related illnesses like mouth cancer. Please do make sure your children receive their vaccination from school and help protect their future.
Other less common risk factors for the disease include an unhealthy diet, too much ultraviolet radiation and a history of cancer in the family.
Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your risk of mouth cancer. But even then, your risk is never zero so take note of the common early symptoms associated with the disease.
Act fast, act early
Lives lost to mouth cancer are often the result of the disease being caught too late. Prevention is the ideal. However, catching mouth cancer early is key, not just to saving lives but also preserving a higher quality of life.
For the unfortunate people who are diagnosed with mouth cancer each hour, they face several emotional and physical challenges, even after treatment. Even the simplest actions like eating, drinking and breathing can become troublesome and stressful to manage.
An early diagnosis can minimise these obstacles and give someone diagnosed with mouth cancer a higher chance of continuing to lead a relatively normal life.
For this reason, make sure you are on the lookout for mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area. Hoarseness in the throat is another symptom that you shouldn’t ignore.
If you spot any mouth cancer red flags, make sure you are seen by your dentist or doctor as soon as possible. We brush our teeth every single day, or at least we should be, twice. This is the perfect opportunity to take a minute to have a close look at the different areas of your mouth and be aware of any unusual changes.
Be vigilant and check the roof and floor of your mouth for any unusual lumps or bumps. Mouth ulcers can also be a tell-tale sign of mouth cancer, particularly if they last for a few
Stick your tongue out in front of the mirror and look for anything that seems odd to you. Unusual changes in colour and texture are what you need to look out for on both the top and the bottom. The same goes for your lips and cheek. For the former, keep an eye out for any sores and for the latter, really try to open wide and look for any red, white or dark patches.
Finally, don’t forget to look at your head and neck areas. Get in front of the mirror and ask yourself, does my face look the same on both sides? Can I feel any weird lumps or tenderness?
If you remember anything about checking for mouth cancer it should be this – if in doubt, get checked out. It is always better to be safe than sorry. This is especially true when it comes to a disease like mouth cancer, where early diagnosis really is everything. So, if you do spot anything that gives you cause for concern, make an appointment with your dentist or doctor and get it checked out.
You can find much more information on mouth cancer and our national campaign, Mouth Cancer Action Month, by heading to www.mouthcancer.org.