Mouth cancer, also called oral cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer. It can develop inside or outside the mouth – usually on the lips, tongue or floor of the mouth, but also the cheeks, gums, tonsils and other areas.
Read this short guide to learn how to spot possible signs of mouth cancer, how to lower your risk factors and how to arrange a screening with your Gold Coast dentist.
Symptoms of mouth cancer
Mouth cancer doesn't always have obvious symptoms, but some of the common signs are:
- a lump on the lip, mouth or throat
- a red or white patch or ulcer in the mouth
- bleeding, swelling or loss of sensation in the mouth
- sore throat or trouble swallowing
- trouble moving the tongue or jaw
- changes in speech or taste
- teeth feeling loose
- sudden weight loss
There could be other reasons for these symptoms, but it's still important to book a check-up with your dentist if you notice anything unusual in or around your mouth.
What causes mouth cancer?
Oral cancer can sometimes develop with no obvious cause, but in most cases, it's linked with lifestyle factors. Giving up unhealthy habits or making other changes can therefore lower your cancer risk and help to prevent the disease. However, some factors can't be controlled.
The major risk factors for mouth cancer include:
- Tobacco use – responsible for around 59% of mouth cancers in Australia, according to the Cancer Council, giving up smoking is the single biggest change you can make to lower your oral cancer risk. Chewing tobacco can be even more dangerous, increasing the risk of cancer of the cheek.
- Alcohol consumption – drinking excessive alcohol causes around 31% of mouth cancers, with the risk being significantly higher if you also smoke.
- UV exposure – many lip cancers are caused by sun exposure. When applying sun protection or wearing a hat, make sure you don't leave your lips exposed.
- Poor oral hygiene – you're more likely to develop oral cancer if you have an oral health problem such as gum disease, so it's important to brush and floss every day and follow a healthy diet.
- Health problems – infections such as the herpes simplex virus, human papilloma virus and Epstein-Barr virus also increase mouth cancer risk.
- Demographics – oral cancer can affect anyone, but it's been found to be twice as likely in men as women and more likely if you're over the age of 45. Men in this age category should get an oral cancer screening at least once a year.
- Genetics – people with a family history of cancer may be more likely to develop cancer themselves.
Can mouth cancer be treated?
If you're worried that you might have oral cancer, or you think you're at risk, ask your dentist if they offer an oral cancer screening as part of your regular check-up. If your dentist detects possible signs of cancer, they'll refer you to a specialist for a complete diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
The earlier cancer is detected, the higher the chance of making a full recovery. Treatments depend on the type of cancer and how far it's progressed, and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or palliative care.
Do you need a dentist on the Gold Coast?
If you want to arrange a check-up or mouth cancer screening on the Gold Coast, contact our friendly team at Robina Town Dental today. Call 07 5575 9100 or find us in Robina Town Centre.
Cancer Council Australia. Mouth cancer [Online] 2019 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/mouth-cancer.html
Better Health Channel. Mouth cancer [Online] 2012 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/mouth-cancer
Healthdirect. Mouth cancer [Online] 2018 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mouth-cancer