Cases of mouth cancer are on the rise in the UK, as recent figures have shown that the number of people with the disease has increased by more than a third in the past decade.
The Oral Health Foundation (OHF) revealed that 8,864 people in the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year – a rise of 34 percent compared to 10 years ago.
The latest report, which has been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, found that 3,034 people lost their life to mouth cancer last year, a rise of almost 20 percent in the last five years.
Survival rates for mouth cancer have barely improved over the past 20 years because patients are usually diagnosed too late.
According to the OHF, more than half of all mouth cancers are diagnosed at stage IV – where the cancer is at its most advanced.
Cosmetic dentist and clinical lead for SmileStraight, Sundeep Patel, told the Mirror: “The rise in cases of oral and mouth cancers in the UK is very worrying, this is why it’s so important to raise awareness to make sure people spot any symptoms early.
“The increase is mainly down to a change in people’s lifestyle habits. Smoking with tobacco, not eating enough fruits and vegetables and drinking alcohol can all increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
“In fact, alcohol has been linked to a third of cases, and this is because many of us are drinking much more now than we used to, with many people binge drinking on the weekend.”
The oral expert has revealed the seven early signs of mouth cancer to watch out for.
A feeling of thickness in your throat
An early symptom of mouth cancer is often feeling as though there is something lodged in your throat, or a feeling of thickness in the throat.
“This may be subtle, but you notice a change in the way your throat feels and when you swallow,” says Sundeep.
“You may find it harder to swallow or the way you swallow has changed. You may also have a sore throat.”
Vocal changes, or hoarseness
Vocal changes and hoarseness in your voice is a sign that something may be wrong, often it may be harder to speak in a lower voice, or you may have difficulty speaking loud.
You may also find that you are having to clear your throat more often.
Swollen lymph nodes
Swelling in one or more lymph nodes in the neck is a common early symptom of mouth and oropharyngeal cancer.
If the lump appears to be getting bigger, you should visit your GP right away.
Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
Mouth cancer can affect the way we do normal things from our mouth.
The dentist explained: “Swallowing may become harder, and chewing might also be difficult.
“You may notice pain when chewing, or a feeling that your teeth do not feel secure. Speaking may also become difficult.”
Pain in ears and headaches
You may notice that your ears feel muffled, or you have hearing issues.
Ear pain is also associated with early signs of mouth cancer.
“You may also find that you are suffering with an increased amount of headaches than what is normal for you,” added the expert.
Numbness in your mouth
A persistent and unexplained numbness, or odd feeling on the lips, tongue or in the mouth could indicate mouth cancer.
Sundeep said: “Sometimes white or red patches on the inside of the mouth can also be a sign of the disease.”
A tooth or teeth that become loose for no clear reason
“Having dental issues such as loose or wobbly teeth, without having any dental complications can often be an early sign of oral cancer,” claims the dentist.
If you are noticing changes with your teeth, or loose teeth, as well as changes with your jaw and tongue you should alert your dentist or GP right away.