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Mouth Cancer Becoming More Common in ‘Lower Risk’ Groups

01 October 2014

Increased Awareness Vital for Improving Early Diagnosis Rates 

The beginning of November kicks off Mouth Cancer Action Month, the charity campaign that aims to raise awareness of and save lives caused by mouth cancer. With more than 6,700 people in the UK being diagnosed with mouth cancer last year, Mouth Cancer Action Month seeks to encourage action through early detection and prevention.
In light of this, we’ve been speaking to a Consultant who is passionate about reducing incidence and improving early diagnosis rates: Mr Luke Cascarini, Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Head & Neck Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital. During Mouth Cancer Action Month, Mr Cascarini is keen to raise awareness among those who think they are at a lower risk of developing the disease. “Typically smokers and heavy drinkers are seen to be most at risk of developing mouth cancer. While this is the case, I am seeing a rise in the incidence of mouth cancer among younger non-smokers who don’t drink heavily”, explains Mr Cascarini. “While we can’t easily explain why this cancer is affecting younger, lower-risk people, it’s important to get the message out there that this is not a disease that just affects old people” Mr Cascarini continues. 
Conscious of the number of people who might be unknowingly exhibiting symptoms of mouth cancer, Mr Cascarini highlights the main indicators of the disease:  
• The most common symptom is an ulcer or lump that won’t go away. This may or may not be painful and can be anywhere in the mouth, though it is usually on the tongue, cheek, or floor of the mouth. If the ulcer or lump persists for more than two weeks it should be looked at by an oral specialist 
• If the cancer is on the bone, an indicator might be a loosening of the teeth. While this a rarer symptom, it’s something that everyone needs to be aware of
While smokers and drinkers are most commonly recognised as high-risk candidates for the disease, Mr Cascarini highlights another cause which is now coming to light: “While slightly controversial, the HPV virus, previously more commonly associated with cervical cancer, is increasingly becoming linked to the incidence of mouth cancer – most famously by Michael Douglas. In light of this, giving the HPV vaccination to boys as well as girls is something that needs to be given serious thought”. 
In addition to being aware of symptoms, Mr Cascarini notes that regular visits to the dentist are key for oral health and catching problems early on. “At your six-monthly appointments your dentist should give you a thorough check for any symptoms of mouth cancer. As well as checking the inside of your mouth for any unusual lumps and bumps, your dentist should examine the lymph nodes in your neck and your jaw joints to ensure everything is as it should be.” 
Like most cancers, mouth cancer is most easily treated when caught at an early stage. Mr Cascarini urges that people consult their dentists or an oral specialist if they have any concerns about any symptoms they are experiencing.