Mouth Cancer Action Month is a charity campaign which aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and make a difference by saving thousands of lives through early detection and prevention. Victoria Road Dental Clinic are supporting this important campaign.
The campaign will be aiming to get more mouth cancers diagnosed at an early stage by increasing education of the risk factors and signs and symptoms while encouraging everybody to discuss them with their dental professional.
In the UK, more than 7,000 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year. The disease has grown by a third in the last decade and remains one of the very few cancers which are predicted to increase further in the coming years… that’s why Mouth Cancer Action Month is so important.
Although there are risk factors heavily linked to the disease, mouth cancer can affect anybody – that’s why it’s so important that we all know what to look out for. The campaign is all about taking action.
Don’t leave a mouth ulcer unattended for more than three weeks. Don’t ignore any unusual lumps or swellings or red and white patches in your mouth.
Early detection could save your life. If you notice any changes in your mouth please speak to a dentist or doctor immediately.
Mouth cancer takes the lives of more than 2,000 people each year in the UK, which is more than testicular and cervical cancer combined. Mouth cancer also takes more lives a year than road traffic accidents. By knowing more about the risk factors, living healthier lifestyles and by learning what to look out we can help reduce our risk and lower the number of lives that mouth cancer effects.
This year, we want everybody to help us by getting involved in Mouth Cancer Action Month. Whether you’re on your own or as part of a team, there are lots of ways you can be part of the campaign and really make a difference.
Mouth Cancer Risk Factors
Although mouth cancer can affect anybody, and is strongly associated with the age and gender of a person, around 91% of all diagnoses are linked to lifestyle. This means that by amending our lifestyle choices, we can help cut the chances of developing mouth cancer. Here are the risk factors that have been shown to play a major role in contracting the disease.
The health implications of smoking are well documented, but mouth cancer often gets overlooked. The majority of mouth cancer cases continue to be as result of smoking and tobacco use. Around one in five people in the UK currently smoke, which accounts for roughly two in every three mouth cancer cases.
There are thousands of chemicals contained in a single cigarette, and their point of entry is the mouth. Smoking helps to transform saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous.
The danger is that smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop mouth cancer and seven times more likely to be diagnosed with throat cancer, while a morning cigarette has been shown to double those chances further. But it is never too late to make a difference….
Research has shown that ex-smokers reduce their risk of mouth cancer by more than a third. And with around two-thirds of smokers admitting they would like to kick the habit, Mouth Cancer Action Month is the perfect time to do just that.
Drinking alcohol to excess is another major risk factor linked with mouth cancer – associated with around a third of all cases. The key is the excess part. An occasional glass of wine here and there is considered much better than drinking the bottle in a single evening. Moderation really is important.
The danger group are those who smoke and drink alcohol to excess. These people increase their risk of mouth cancer by up to 30 times. For those who do smoke and drink, please be aware of this risk. It is especially important that this group visits the dentist regularly so they can examine your mouth.
If you need a guide on what the recommended units of alcohol per day are, click here.
Mouth cancer risk is not associated with the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash.
The Human Papillomavirus
There’s no easy way to say this, but oral sex is becoming a problem. In fact, many experts believe the Human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted mostly through oral sex, will overtake tobacco use as the main cause of mouth cancer within the next decade.
HPV is very common and almost every sexually-active person will get HPV at some time in their lives. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. 90% of HPV infections go away by themselves within two years and don’t affect the health of most people. But sometimes HPV infections persist and may cause a variety of serious problems. Including:
- Abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells in some parts of the body, which can cause cancer.
- Genital warts, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK.
Limiting the number of partners you have and practising safe sex will reduce the risk.
Despite HPV’s impact on the health of both sexes, the UK’s HPV immunisation programme is exclusively for females due to its risk with cervical cancer. In the UK, girls aged 12/13 have been vaccinated routinely, mostly via a school-based programme, since 2008. We are working hard, alongside other bodies and associations to readdress this inequality and fight for a gender-neutral vaccination.
You can find out more about HPV and the gender-neutral vaccination campaign at www.hpvaction.org
Up to half of all mouth cancer cases are partly due to poor diet. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will not only keep your body fit and healthy, it will help to reduce the risk of mouth cancer.
Non-starchy vegetables and fruits (not salted or pickled), and foods containing carotenoids, can actually help to reduce mouth cancer risk. Mouth cancer risk is lower in people with the highest intake of the following foods, versus those with the lowest intake, research has shown have shown:
- Fruit – 48% lower risk.
- Vegetables – 34% lower risk.
- Vitamin C supplements – 24% lower risk (versus never-users).
- Calcium supplements – 36% lower risk (versus never-users).
- Caffeinated coffee – 39% lower risk in 4 cups/day (versus non-drinkers).
- Green tea – 20% lower risk.
Second-hand or environmental tobacco smoke has been named a probable cause of mouth cancer. Mouth cancer risk is 87% higher in those who have never smoked and that have been exposed to tobacco smoke at home or work, compared with unexposed non-smokers. Studies have also shown that the risk of mouth cancer is more than twice as high in people who have never smoked exposed to second-hand smoke at home or work for 15 years or more, compared with unexposed never-smokers.Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Mouth cancer, perhaps more so than many other forms of cancer, is highly dependent on early detection. Many cases are discovered at stage 4, where it is just too late. However, if it is caught early, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten – those odds are pretty good, and that’s why early detection is so important.Mouth Cancer Action Month will again promote the message ‘If in doubt, get checked out’ and encourage everybody to pay more attention to what’s going on inside their mouth.As mouth cancer can strike in a number of places, including the lips, tongue, gums and cheek, and given that early detection is so crucial for survival, it’s extremely important that we all know what to look out for. Three signs and symptoms NOT to ignore are:
- Ulcers which do not heal in three weeks.
- Red and white patches in the mouth.
- Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.
If any of these are noticed, it is essential that you tell your dentist or doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
The mouth cancer examination
As part of every check-up, your dentist is required to carry out a visual examination and check for the early signs of mouth cancer. Please do talk about the examination with your dentist – they will be more than happy to talk through exactly what they are doing, where they are looking, and what they are searching for.Here are the six basic areas your dentist will investigate during a normal check-up:
Head and neck
Your dentist will look at your face and neck. They will judge whether both sides look the same and search for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face. Your dentist will also feel and press along the sides and front of your neck – they are looking for any tenderness or lumps to the touch.
Your dentist will pull down your lower lip and look inside for any sores or change in colour. Next, they will use their thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps or changes in texture. This will then be repeated on the upper lip.
The dentists will use their finger to pull out your cheek so that they can see inside. They will look for red, white or dark patches. They will then place their index finger inside your cheek, with their thumb on the outside. They will then gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers, repeating this action on the other cheek.
Roof of the mouth
With your head tilted back and mouth open wide, your dentist will look to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour. They will run their ﬁnger on the roof of your mouth to feel for any lumps.
Your dentist will examine your tongue, looking at the surface for any changes in colour or texture. They might ask you to stick out your tongue or move it from one side to another, again looking for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers. They will also take a look at the underside of the tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
Floor of the mouth
The dentist will look at the floor of the mouth for changes in colour that are different than normal. They will gently press their finger along the floor of their mouth and underside of your tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.
Get Involved in Mouth Cancer Awareness Month
Show off your #BlueLipSelfie and get everyone talking about mouth cancer
#BlueLipSelfie encourages everyone to wear blue lips as a visible sign of support for mouth cancer. Whether you choose cartoon lips in the #BlueLipSelfie app, blue lipstick or plastic lips, you can help us boost awareness of this disease, its symptoms, its risk factors, and how to minimise risk. Plus you can have a little bit of fun in the process!
So put on your best blue smile and be part of something huge to get everybody talking about mouth cancer.
How to take part
Everybody can take part in the Blue Lip Selfie campaign; men or women, old or young, it doesn’t matter.
All you need to do is take a selfie of yourself or alongside family, friends or colleagues, and upload to the official blue lip selfie gallery at www.bluelipselfie.co.uk. On the microsite, you can customise your selfies with fun blue cartoon lips.
You can also submit selfies to the gallery by taking a photo of you with blue lipstick or blue plastic lips and share on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BlueLipSelfie – the choice is yours!
As well as uploading your selfies to the official app, don’t forget to share your selfies with the hashtag #bluelipselfie to help raise awareness to get the campaign going viral and encourage others to show their support for mouth cancer.
For a quirky fundraising idea, why not sponsor your friends, family and colleagues to wear blue lipstick for a day, week or even the whole month?