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Mouth Cancer – An increasing problem: If in doubt, get checked out


To mark ‘Mouth Cancer Action Month – November 2015’ the Health and Social Care Board,  Public Health Agency and Cancer Focus NI want to raise awareness of how the public can reduce their risk of developing mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer is a general term for cancer of the mouth, including the lip, gums, throat and tongue with the lining of the mouth being the most common site for the cancer.  Around 200 people are diagnosed in Northern Ireland each year with more people dying from mouth cancer than from cervical and testicular cancer combined.

The number of people being diagnosed with oral cancer is increasing, particularly in females and in younger people. It is projected that oral cancer rates will continue to rise steeply over the next twenty years.

Mouth cancer can appear in several ways including ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, white or red patches or unusual lumps or swellings. When mouth cancer is spotted early the chances of a complete cure are good.  If cancerous lesions are small, treatment is generally less complicated and much more effective.  A cure is less likely if the cancer has spread so early diagnosis is critical. A trip to your dentist or doctor could save your life. Dentists are trained to spot early signs of mouth and salivary gland cancer so if in doubt, get checked out.

Smoking tobacco and frequent intake of alcohol are the most important risk factors for mouth cancer. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal (throat) cancer and over-exposure to sunshine or sunbeds is a known risk for lip cancer.

By visiting their dentist regularly, quitting smoking, drinking responsibly, reducing sun exposure and practising safe sex, patients can reduce their risk of developing mouth cancer.

Patient information on mouth cancer can be accessed on the Cancer Focus NI website at www.cancerfocusni.org.  Cancer Focus Northern Ireland provides information and support to people worried about, or affected by cancer.  For advice contact their Information and Support Helpline on 0800 783 3339 which is available free from a landline from Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 1.00 pm, or by email at helpline@cancerfocusni.org.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of cancer visit the PHA Be Cancer Aware website www.becanceraware.info. The website provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.

For more information on the services available and useful tips to stop smoking, visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info where you can also order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge which will help you plan your quit attempt.

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