In the UK, mouth cancer kills more people than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined. Flaxpits Lane Dental Practice routinely inspects for signs of mouth cancer every time you visit us.

By helping to identify possible symptoms and providing advice on prevention, we aim to help reduce incidence of mouth cancer in our patients and the public in general.

What is Mouth Cancer?
This is the general term given to the variety of malignant head and neck tumours that develop in the mouth (oral cavity), throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), salivary glands, nose and sinuses. In the UK, mouth cancer kills more people than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined. Once discovered, treatment options vary and will depend on how early the cancer is diagnosed or detected. Removal of the tumour, followed by radiotherapy may be suitable for smaller tumours; chemotherapy is required in more advanced cases. The overall long-term survival rate is 50% after 5 years, but early detection greatly improves prognosis.

Risk Factors
The most important aetiological factors are tobacco usage and excess consumption of alcohol, and these factors together are thought to account for about 75% of oral cancer cases in Europe.

At least 75% of patients diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers are tobacco users. Smokers have six times greater risk, and those using chewing tobacco or chewing paan/gutkha also have increased risk levels.

In the UK, 6% of cancer deaths are caused by alcohol. Heavy drinkers have a 5-10 times greater risk of developing cancer but even small amounts of alcohol (as little as 1 unit a day) can increase the risk. Individuals who use tobacco and alcohol face a 30-times greater risk than abstainers.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Most HPV infections go away on their own without causing any type of abnormality but persistent infection with certain types of the Human Papilloma virus (HPV), a group of viruses, is now recognized as the major cause of cervical cancer. Having many sexual partners is a risk factor for HPV infection. Evidence is emerging that HPV is linked to some mouth cancers. Studies have shown that oral HPV infection is a strong risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer (cancer that forms in the middle part of the throat and includes the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils). Dr Vinod K Joshi, Founder of the Mouth Cancer Foundation, states: A high proportion of oropharyngeal cancers in nonsmokers and younger adults have been associated with HPV. The mode of transmission may be frequent oral sex in adolescents and young adults.

Key Statistics about Mouth Cancer in UK

  • Mouth cancer is one of the top ten most commonly diagnosed cancers and accounts for more than 7,800 new cases each year.
  • Incidence has risen by 25% over the past 10 years.
  • Five year survival rate has hardly improved (50% overall) for the last few decades.
  • Mouth cancer is more common in men than women. However, the sex ratio in the UK has decreased rapidly from around 5:1 fifty years ago to less than 2:1 today.

  • It is important to have a self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification of these symptoms:

  • A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks
  • A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • A feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that  persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Neck swelling present for more than three weeks
  • Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for  more than three weeks – see a dentist urgently
Unilateral nasal mass / ulceration / obstruction, particularly associated with purulent or bloody discharge

  • Reduce your chances of getting these cancers by:

  • Not smoking or chewing tobacco, gutkha/paan
    Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Having a healthier “low meat, low fat” diet, rich in vegetables and fruit with servings of bread, cereals or beans everyday

  • For more information please visit:
    Mouth Cancer on Youtube