What is Oral Cancer Awareness Month?

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Oral cancerThis month is Oral Cancer Awareness month which most UK patients will probably be unaware of. Here is some information about the importance of this and why you should visit your dentist regularly.

What is Oral Cancer Awareness month?

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month in the USA. The Mouth Cancer Foundation is supporting colleagues in the USA by reiterating its advice to everyone in the UK to be aware of the early signs of mouth cancer and visit their dentist regularly.

How does Oral Cancer affect people in the UK?

In the UK, The Mouth Cancer Foundation claim there are more than 8000 people diagnosed with the disease every year and around 60,000 people are expected to be diagnosed in the next decade.

How can I prevent this?

Many people are aware that regular routine dental check-ups can prevent cavities, gum disease or root canal.  However, they fail to understand that a dentist can also help save your life by detecting life-threatening, medical conditions such as mouth cancer.

Early warning signs for mouth cancer aren’t always easy for patients to find, so it is important to see a dentist who is more likely to notice the early symptoms such as lumps or irregular tissue changes in the neck, head and cheeks. By catching it early and getting treatment can save lives so remember to see your dentist regularly.

How can I spot the signs of Mouth Cancer?

If you spot any of these signs please give us a call asap.

* An ulcer or white or red patch anywhere in the mouth that does not heal within 3 weeks

* A lump or swelling anywhere in the mouth, jaw or neck that persists for more than 3 weeks

* You have difficulty in swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue

*Your tongue or other area of the mouth feels numb.

* A feeling that something is caught in the throat

* You have a chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than 6 weeks

* An unexplained loosening of teeth with no dental cause

What are the causes?

Oral cancer is sometimes associated with known risk factors for the disease. The main causes have been identified as Tobacco and alcohol use, sun exposure and Chemopreventionsnis.

  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Alcohol, especially beer and strong spirits such as Vodka and Whiskey, are associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Sun exposure: Exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of lip cancer always use sunscreen coloured lipstick when you are out in the sunshine.
  • Other factors: Some studies suggest that being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase the risk of oral cancer.
  • Chemoprevention: Chemopreventionis the use of drugs, vitamins, or other agents to prevent or delay the growth of cancer or to keep it from coming back. Tobacco users who have had oral cancer often develop second cancers in the oral cavity or nearby areas, including the nose, throat, vocal cords, esophagus, and windpipe. Studies of chemoprevention in oral cancer are under way, including chemoprevention of leukoplakia and erythroplakia

What treatments are available?

Surgery

Surgery to remove the tumour in the mouth or throat is a common treatment for oral cancer. Sometimes the surgeon also removes lymph nodes in the neck. Other tissues in the mouth and neck may be removed as well. Patients may have surgery alone or in combination with radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat oral cancer:

External radiation: The radiation comes from a machine. Patients go to the hospital or clinic once or twice a day, generally 5 days a week for several weeks.

Internal radiation (implant radiation): The radiation comes from radioactive material placed in seeds, needles, or thin plastic tubes put directly in the tissue. The patient stays in the hospital. The implants remain in place for several days. Usually they are removed before the patient goes home.

 Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. It enters the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells throughout the body. A new targeted therapy called cetuximab, which blocks a growth factor upon which cancer cells may depend, is being used today, either alone or in combination with radiation and older chemotherapy drugs.

Chemotherapy is usually given by injection.

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