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Oral/Mouth/Tongue Cancer Screening

All patients have an Oral Cancer Screening as part of every full dental examination.

So for example the Yearly Examination includes one as does the review examination after an emergency visit

The examination includes a dental healthy history to look at risk factors, plus and examination of all the soft tissue and underlying mouth structure. There is a particular emphasis on the Tongue and floor of the mouth, any swellings or tissue blemishes (ulcers/white patches)

Oral/Mouth/Tongue Cancers

Introduction

Mouth cancer can affect any part of the mouth, including the tongue and lips. The most common symptoms are having a sore or ulcer for more than three weeks.


Mouth cancer is also sometimes called oral cancer. Although mouth cancer is uncommon in the UK, it seems to be getting more common. There are around 4,700 cases that are diagnosed each year. It is twice as common in men as it is in women and is rare in people aged under 40. Many cases are diagnosed by dentists rather than doctors.


The outlook for people with mouth cancer is very good if it is diagnosed early.

What causes mouth cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply out of control. (See separate leaflet called What Causes Cancer? for more details.)
Some people develop mouth cancer for no apparent reason. However, certain risk factors increase the chance that mouth cancer may develop. These include:
•Smoking. Mouth cancer is just one cancer which has a much higher incidence in smokers than in non-smokers.
•Alcohol. Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
•Chewing tobacco or the betal leaf.
•The human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase your risk of mouth cancer.
•There are some conditions affecting the mouth, such as leukoplakia and erythroplakia, which can increase the risk of a cancer developing.
Mouth cancer is not hereditary, so does not run in families.

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?

The most common symptoms of mouth cancer are a sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal, and pain in the mouth that does not go away.

In many cases, changes are seen in the mouth before the cancer develops. This means that early treatment of these changes will actually prevent a cancer developing.

Other symptoms include:

•White patches anywhere in your mouth (leukoplakia).
•Red patches anywhere in your mouth (erythroplakia).
•A lump on the lip, tongue or in the mouth or throat.
•Unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth.
•Pain when chewing or swallowing.
•A feeling that something is caught in the throat.
•Unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth.
•Loose teeth or dentures feeling uncomfortable and not fitting properly.
•A change in your voice or speech problems.
•Weight loss.
•A lump in the neck.
•If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, various other symptoms can develop.


All of these symptoms can be due to other conditions, so tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Note: any ulcer in the mouth that does not heal after three weeks should be checked by your dentist or doctor.

Further help and information

The Mouth Cancer Foundation

Web: www.mouthcancerfoundation.org
Supports people with mouth, throat and other head and neck cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Tel (Helpline): 0808 808 0000 Web: www.macmillan.org.uk
Provides information and support to anyone affected by cancer.

CancerHelp UK

Web: http://cancerhelp.cancerresearchuk.org
Provides facts about cancer, including treatment choices.