Hundreds of new cases of mouth and oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed in SA every year. It’s one of the few cancers predicted to become more common in the coming years. So, sharing information about the risk factors, signs and symptoms are incredibly important to us.

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer affects your lips, cheeks, tongue and throat – and it’s on the rise. It’s most common in men over 40 years of age, but there are increasing cases among women and younger individuals.

The signs of mouth cancer

The symptoms of mouth cancer include unusual lumps or swelling; white or red patches; or seemingly ordinary ulcers that don’t heal in 3 weeks.

If you notice these symptoms, or there’s anything else you’re concerned about, we highly recommend that you see your dentist. Your dentist should examine your mouth and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist for a more comprehensive assessment and diagnosis.

If they catch the condition is detected early enough, the chances of a complete recovery are much better. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know what to look out for and don’t usually see their dentist regularly, so their diagnosis gets delayed, and it isn’t caught early enough.

Causes of mouth cancer

Lifestyle choices cause most mouth cancers, so you can reduce your chances of developing the disease by merely avoiding these risk factors.

Alcohol and Tabacco are two of the biggest causes of mouth cancer; combined, they become even more of a risk. Individuals who smoke and drink alcohol increase their risk of developing mouth cancer by 30 times. Other risk factors include overexposure to sunlight, the human papillomavirus (HPV) and a poor diet.

Preventing mouth cancer

As well as avoiding these risk factors, you can reduce your chances of developing mouth cancer by looking after your overall health.

A proper diet is essential for protecting your body against all types of cancer. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and foods that are high in vitamins A, C and E.

Your dentist should be checking your mouth for the signs of mouth cancer during your dental health checks. Make sure you see them every six months or as advised.

You should also get into the habit of checking yourself for mouth cancer between appointments. If you have any concerns, contact your dentist straight away.

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