Mouth cancer: What are the causes and symptoms?

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is when a tumour develops in a part of the mouth. It may be on the surface of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, or on the lips or gums. According to the NHS, early detection can boost your chance of survival from 50 percent to 90 percent and if experiencing a persistent numbness on your lips it could be an indication of the disease.

Mouth and throat cancers can trigger a number of symptoms including numbness in the mouth, said Healthline.

The health site continued: “The numb feeling may be throughout the mouth and lip area, or in patchy areas.

“This happens when cancer cells cause nerve or blood vessel damage in the mouth.

“Check your mouth carefully once a month for any signs of abnormality.

“Use a magnifying mirror under bright light to get a clear view.”

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Other symptoms of mouth cancer to look out for include:

  • Soreness or irritation in the tongue or mouth area
  • Red or white patches in the mouth or on the lips
  • Thickened spots on the tongue and inside the mouth
  • A sore jaw
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

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Most oral cancers are a type called squamous cell carcinoma, with these types of cancers tending to spread quickly.

Smoking and other tobacco use are linked to most cases of oral cancer with heavy alcohol use also increasing the risk for oral cancer.

Some oral cancers begin as a white plaque or as a mouth ulcer.

Men develop oral cancer twice as often as women do and it is more common in men older than 40.

It is not known what causes all mouth or oropharyngeal cancers, but there are some factors that can increase your risk of developing it.

Research suggests that more than 60 out of 100 (more than 60 percent) of mouth and oropharyngeal cancers in the UK are caused by smoking.

“There is some evidence that people exposed to second-hand smoke (passive smoking) at home or in the workplace may have a small increase in their risk of mouth and oropharyngeal cancer,” says Cancer Research UK.

Research has also shown that around 30 out of 100 (30 percent) of mouth and oropharyngeal cancers are caused by drinking alcohol.

The Mouth Cancer Foundation advices everyone to perform a monthly two-minute self-examination to identify any troubling signs of the disease.

This would enable an earlier diagnosis, swifter treatment and a greater chance of survival.

The self-examination involves feeling the face, neck, lips, gums, cheeks and tongue, the open mouth floor and roof area.

During the two-minute check, one should be on the lookout for either lumps, red or white patches, changes in colour or texture, lingering ulcers or anything unusual.

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