There is no one succinct description for oral cancer, however it can generally be described as cancer that occurs in any part of the mouth; on the tongue’s surface, in the lips, inside the cheek, in the gums, in the roof and floor of the mouth, in the tonsils, and also the salivary glands.In 2011, there were 2,056 deaths from oral cancer in the UK. According to the National Oral Health Improvement Strategy report issued by the Scottish government, the three main causes for oral cancer include:
- Chewing Tobacco
- Alcohol Misuse
- red, or red and white, patches on the lining of your mouth or tongue
- one or more mouth ulcers that do not heal after three weeks
- a swelling in your mouth that lasts for more than three weeks
- unusual changes in your sense of taste and pain when swallowing (dysphagia)
- a tooth, or teeth, that becomes loose for no obvious reason
- a hoarse voice
- unexplained weight loss
In Scotland over a quarter of the population are at risk of getting oral cancer from smoking – and the numbers are much higher when considering those also put at risk by alcohol misuse and tobacco chewing. ASH Scotland (Action on Smoking and Health Scotland) issued a fact sheet that showed that 22.9% of people above the age of sixteen smoke; while a 2012 survey by Scottish Health Survey found that 25% of men and 18% of women misuse alcohol.
These levels of smoking and alcoholic abuse are reflected in the statistics on oral cancer. The University of Glasgow claims that there are approximately 3,500 (500 in Scotland) new cases of oral cancer diagnosed annually; with twice as many man diagnosed for the disease as women. In Scotland oral cancer incidents are on the rise, particularly among younger age groups.
So what does this mean for you?
Be aware of the risks and how to protect yourself from oral cancer. Minimise the possibilities of oral cancer by using the following tips:
- Brush and floss regularly
- Stop smoking and/or chewing tobacco
- If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly
- Eat healthy, cancer-fighting foods
- Ask for an oral cancer screening
- See your dentist regularly