Oral cancer – the warning signs and symptoms

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With NHS dental access facing more obstacles, oral health has never been more important.

While most understand the importance of looking after their mouth, many do not know the signs to look out for when it comes to oral cancer. 

Mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer globally. According to Cancer Research:

  • Around 12,400 new oral cancer cases occur in the UK every year (2016-2018)
  • Oral cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the UK. It accounts for 3% of all new cancer cases (2016-2018)
  • Oral cancer is the 13th most common cancer among UK females, with around 3,900 new cases every year (2016-2018)
  • Finally among males in the UK, oral cancer is the 4th most common cancer, with around 8,600 new cases every year (2016-2018).

So what are the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer?

Signs of mouth cancer include:

  • Painful mouth ulcers that do not heal within several weeks
  • Unexplained and persistent lumps in the mouth or the neck that do disappear
  • Unexplained loose teeth or sockets that struggle heal after an extraction
  • Unexplained and persistent numbness. This could be explained as an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
  • White or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue (these can be an early indication of cancer, so they should also be checked
  • Changes in one's speech, for example a lisp.
As always, there is no need to panic if you detect any of the above. But absolutely get yourself to a dentist and have your mouth checked. It could be nothing – but it is always worth having it looked at. 

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