Mouth cancer is also called oral cancer and affects any part of your mouth. It is an uncontrolled and abnormal cell growth that could be on your lips, tongue, gums, inside of cheeks and lips, underneath your tongue, on the roof of your mouth or just behind your wisdom teeth. It is one of the less talked about cancers in the UK but more than 6,500 people are diagnosed with it every year in this country. In terms of who is affected, mouth cancer is more common in men than women and the risk of developing it increases with age.
There are a number of symptoms to look out for with mouth cancer. These include:
- Mouth ulcers that don’t get better – if the skin is broken and doesn’t heal this is one of the most common oral cancer indicators.
- Pain – if you’re suffering from ongoing pain in your mouth then this is another serious symptom of mouth cancer.
- Patches in your mouth or throat – these could be white or red. White patches are called leukoplakia and the red patches are called erythroplakia. These patches are often a sign of cancer or precancerous changes to the cells in the mouth. However, it is important to note that patches in your mouth or throat are not always a sign of cancer – for example, they could be the result of a fungal infection called thrush (if this is the case the white patches will usually rub off, leaving a sore red patch underneath).
- Finding it hard to swallow – if you’re experiencing a burning sensation when you eat – or you find that food sticks in your throat – then this could be a symptom of oral cancer. However, this could also be something less serious, such as a narrowing of the food pipe. It’s worth seeing your doctor to establish the exact cause.
- Difficulty speaking – mouth and throat cancer will have an affect on your voice, making it sound as if you have a cold, causing you to sound quieter or more husky. You may also find you have difficulties with pronunciation and you might slur your words.
- A lump – a lump in your neck is a common symptom of cancer and is normally caused by a swollen lymph node. If the lump is temporary and then goes, or it is hot and painful, then it is not likely to be cancer.
- Losing weight- this is a common sign of all cancers but with mouth cancer it may be exacerbated by not being able to eat due to pain in your mouth. If you lose 10lbs or more in a short period of time without dieting then this is worth investigating.
- Halitosis – all of us have bad breath for one reason or another at some point but consistent bad breath can be a sign of mouth cancer.
- Other symptoms – if you find unusual lumps on your lips or in your mouth, bleeding in your mouth or you find that teeth fall out for no reason then it might be worth seeing a doctor as these are also signs of mouth cancer.