April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer is on the increase but is highly treatable if detected early. The good news is that we know that certain avoidable factors increase the risk of oral cancer, and the signs and symptoms which could lead to an early, more treatable diagnosis.
Reduce the risk factors
- Smoking is a major known contributing factor to oral cancer. When combined with alcohol consumption, the risk factor increases dramatically. Claire our hygienist has had specialised training in helping with smoking cessation. You can also contact your GP who can put you in touch with a smoking cessation support group. Tips on cutting down alcohol can be found here
- E – cigarettes – the jury is out on this new tobacco replacement system as no long term research is in place yet, however inhaling chemicals of any type will cause damage
- UV exposure – damaging effects of the sun on our skin is widely known, but the sun can cause damage and blistering to lips if not protected, Make sure lip balms contain the highest SPF available, (we recommend at least SPF 30). this is particularly important for young skin, which is more vulnerable
- Regular dental appointments – as part of your regular dental checkup we routinely screen for oral cancer as well as other changes in your soft tissues.
- Good oral hygiene will improve your general health and immune system, some schools of thought suggest simply flossing after brushing thoroughly can improve your general health
- A healthy diet rich in antioxidant ‘superfoods’: Broccoli, berries, walnuts, tomatoes, garlic, spinach and whole grains are are reported to have cancer busting properties.
- Regular self checks using the checklist below –
Signs to look out for
- Ulceration lasting longer than 2 weeks
- Red, white or speckled patches inside of the mouth
- Any swellings or thickening, lumps or crusty legions on the lips,gums or inside of the mouth
- Any persistent pain should always be investigated
- Pain or difficulty swallowing, or feeling like something is stuck in the throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Changes in the voice or speech, such as hoarseness or a persistent sore throat
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
The above signs do not always indicate oral cancer, however these are common signs and symptoms which have proved effective in previous treatment and diagnosis, and could potentially save lives.
If you are concerned about oral cancer please ring the practice on 01443 451851 (Nelson) or 01443 812559 (Ystrad Mynach) for advice