Signs of Mouth Cancer to Watch Out For

Mouth cancer used to be something that older folk might get. It was quite unusual in middle-aged or younger people. But not anymore and anyone at any age can get it.
Over the last ten years, we have seen mouth cancer becoming more common in the younger age groups. So what are the warning signs? You should watch out for any of these:ID-100367244
1. A small raised patch on your lip or tongue, inside your cheek, or on the roof of your mouth. The patch can be red, or it may be white, sometimes with red speckles in it. If it doesn’t heal up within 10 days, get it checked by a dentist.
2. A small ulcer or sore on your lip, which doesn’t heal up and becomes crusty around the edges. Lower lips are more affected than upper lips, as they get more sunlight.
3. A small ulcer anywhere else in your mouth that doesn’t heal up within 10 days. Sometimes it may bleed easily. The side of the tongue or under the tongue is a common location.
4. A swelling or lump in your tongue, lip or neck that develops over a few weeks or months, usually painless.
5. You may notice that your teeth seem to have moved position, either because your denture doesn’t fit the same, or your “bite” is different.
All these things may have perfectly normal explanations; but if you find something in your mouth that does not heal up or go away in 10 days, get a dentist to check it.
What causes cancer of the mouth?
Like all cancers, there is no one specific cause, but we DO know of a couple of factors that can trigger a tumor;
1. Smoking
2. Chewing tobacco
3. Drinking alcohol, especially spirits
4. Age

What treatments are there?
There are several possibilities:
1. Surgery
2. Radiotherapy
3. Chemotherapy.

Exactly which treatment is used depends on where the cancer is, and how big / how advanced it is. Generally, the smaller the tumor and the more accessible it is (ie. towards the front of the mouth), the more likely it is to be treated by surgery. This can remove the tumor in one go, and gives the shortest treatment time. If the tumor is bigger, and located further back in the mouth, then radiotherapy is more likely. Sometimes a combination of all 3 treatments is used.

What’s the outlook?
Like all cancers, the smaller it is when discovered, the greater the chance of a complete cure. Tumors near the front of the mouth have the highest cure rates, mainly because they are visible and people spot them sooner. But tumors under the tongue or at the back of the tongue are usually detected only later on, and sometimes the tumor cells may have spread to the neck. This requires more extensive surgery and chemotherapy to treat, but overall success rates are good.

So, if you have any doubts about that little ulcer in your mouth, get it checked!


Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at

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