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Mouth Cancer Action Month

Cancer of the mouth is nasty. It kills a higher percentage of sufferers than melanoma or breast cancer – between seven and eight thousand people are diagnosed every year. Early detection is vital. To this end, November sees the Mouth Cancer and British Dental Health foundations coming together for their annual campaign to promote awareness of this terrible disease and to ensure early detection wherever possible.

Cancer and its treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken your immune system. If your mouth is not as healthy as possible prior to your cancer treatment, you may be more susceptible to infection. If the infection is serious enough, it can delay your cancer treatment.

In addition, radiation therapy, especially in the area of the head and neck, can damage salivary glands which can cause thick, sticky saliva and extreme dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase your chances of tooth decay and infection.

Mouth cancer stages are indicated using Roman numerals I through IV. A lower stage, such as stage I, indicates a smaller cancer confined to one area. A higher stage, such as stage IV, indicates a larger cancer, or that cancer has spread to other areas of the head or neck or to other areas of the body. Your cancer’s stage helps your doctor determine your treatment options. 

Treatment for mouth cancer depends on your cancer’s location and stage, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. You may have just one type of treatment, or you may undergo a combination of cancer treatments. Treatment options include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Discuss your options with your doctor.

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer? 

In addition to the mouth, you can get cancer of the tongue, lips and gums, as well as along the soft sides of the mouth. Signs and symptoms to look out for include: 

  • Any pain, discomfort, bleeding, lumps or swelling in the mouth, neck or throat. If you have consistent problem with bleeding gums, it is worth visiting your dentist for a check up.
  • Ulcers lasting more than three weeks
  • Red or white patches in your mouth or any unexplained changes in texture
  • Loose teeth or dentures suddenly not fitting
  • Persistent hoarseness, coughing, or voice changes 
  • A feeling that something is stuck in your throat. 

Although the chances of these being caused by cancer are low, if you’ve got any suspicion that something might be wrong, consult a Periodontist immediately. 

What causes it?  

Although the exact causes of mouth cancer are unknown, there’s a number of things that can increase your likelihood of contracting itAll the following are known to increase your risk of mouth cancer: 

  • Smoking – still considered the main cause of mouth cancer 
  • Drinking to excess – it can increase your risk four times, while those who drink and smoke are up to 30 times more at risk 
  • The HPV virus (Human Papilloma Virus) transmitted through oral sex – predicted to overtake smoking and drinking as the leading cause of mouth cancer 
  • Poor diet, particularly one low in fresh fruit and veg. 
How can I get involved in the fight against mouth cancer?

Over at Mouth Cancer Action Month’s website there’s a bunch of stuff you can do to help them out during November – and for the whole year. Why not take a #bluelipselfie – that’s right, a pic of you with blue lips – and upload it to the official blue lip selfie website? You can also: 

  • Become an ambassador – and really get involved in the fight against mouth cancer 
  • Wear a blue ribbon – and help raise the profile of this nasty disease 
  • Take part in Blue Wednesday – on 13th November, help raise awareness by painting your lips blue, wearing that ribbon or digging something blue out of your wardrobe. 
What will my money do? 

Not only will your money help raise awareness of this killer disease, it can also directly help people living with mouth cancer – and their families and loved ones. Here are just a few ways your money can help: 

  • Provide counselling and support for those living with mouth cancer and those close to them 
  • Provide an expert telephone helpline 
  • Reach out to local schools, hospitals and communities with information and expertise 
  • Give financial assistance to people living with mouth cancer for pain medication and homecare 
  • Help people gain access to benefits and other vital sources of financial support 
  • Fund an online support group and interactive web community 
  • Support research. 

Mouth cancer is dangerous. With your help, it can be beaten – and until then you can help provide vital support to those living with it. 

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