While mouth cancer is relatively rare in New Zealand, it’s still good to know how to spot its signs.
We’re going to take a closer look at this disease in our latest post and list some of the symptoms to look out for.
We’ll also explain the role your dentist plays in identifying mouth cancer.
What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer is also known as oral cancer and refers to any cancer that starts in the mouth area.
So this term includes cancer that originates in the lip, cheeks, tongue, gums, salivary glands or roof or floor of the mouth.
What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
The signs of mouth cancer include:
- An ulcer or sore that does not heal within two weeks
- A red or white patch in the mouth
- Trouble eating or swallowing
- Changes to your speech
- Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Swelling of the jaw
- A lump in the throat
- Unexplained weight loss
What causes mouth cancer?
There is a strong link between mouth cancer and alcohol and also smoking or chewing tobacco or betel nut.
Other risks for mouth cancer include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- Gum disease and poor oral hygiene
- Sun exposure
- Family history of mouth cancer
How can my dentist help?
Knowing the signs of mouth cancer is all part of dentistry training.
During your regular check-ups, your dentist will not only be looking at the health of your teeth and gums but will also look for any unusual signs or symptoms in your mouth.
They can also feel for any unusual lumps or swelling as part of your examination.
This helps them identify any abnormalities at an early stage when they are easier to treat.
If they find anything of concern, they can refer you for further tests — for example, a biopsy or X-ray, to confirm whether or not you have cancer.
If cancer is detected, you will be cared for under a treatment team of different healthcare professionals. These may include:
- Your regular GP
- A head and neck surgeon
- An oral surgeon
- A plastic surgeon
- A radiation oncologist who can order radiotherapy treatment
- A medical oncologist who can coordinate chemotherapy
- Cancer nurses
What’s the treatment?
While it can be scary to receive a diagnosis of any type of cancer, be assured that treatment is available for mouth cancer.
This may include:
- Surgery to remove the tumour
- Radiotherapy to treat small mouth cancers
- Chemotherapy to destroy or shrink the tumour
How to prevent mouth cancer
The most common causes of mouth cancer are smoking and consuming excess alcohol. So if you can quit these habits — or at least cut down — then you will reduce your risk considerably.
We’re here to help!
Mouth cancer is rare, but it can be treated more successfully if spotted early.
It’s one of the reasons we encourage our patients to keep up with their regular appointments so we can identify issues early on.
If you’re worried about mouth cancer or just want to come and see us for a regular check-up, get in touch.
We’re here to help you with every aspect of your dental health, whether that’s fixing a problem, providing children’s dental services or offering advice on taking care of any aspect of your oral health — for example, explaining the link between your gut and dental health.
It’s all part of our service to offer the best dental care — for everyone — here in West Auckland!