Mouth Cancer Action Month takes place each November, supported by the Mouth Cancer Foundation and the Oral Health Foundation.
The event aims to make everyone more ‘mouthaware’ through fundraising, sharing stories and communicating key information about mouth cancer. The campaign raises awareness about mouth cancer and educates people on the signs and symptoms they should be looking out for as well as highlighting potential risk factors and the importance of early detection. This is such an important campaign as mouth cancer is one of the few types of cancer that is expected to increase in the years ahead, with the number of people diagnosed in the past decade growing by around a third. It is hoped that with a better awareness, these numbers can be reduced and better outcomes achieved for those who do receive a diagnosis through early detection.
What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, describes one of the areas where head and neck cancers can occur and includes various kinds of tumours affecting the lips, salivary glands, tongue, gums, palate and inside of the cheeks. Cancers further back around the root of the tongue, soft palate, tonsils and the upper part of the throat (the pharynx) are more properly called pharyngeal cancer. Although there are several different cancers that can occur in these areas the most common is called squamous cell carcinoma (scc) which arises from the surface cells of the skin.
Throat cancer is not a precise term but is usually understood to mean cancers in the pharynx (the hollow tube between the nose and windpipe) and the larynx (voice box) and upper part of the oesophagus (food tube leading to stomach).
Cancer affecting the nasal cavity and paranasal air sinuses is also included in head and neck cancers. Mouth and throat cancer can grow and spread very quickly so it is essential that you see a GP or dentist as soon as possible if you think you may have any of the signs and symptoms.
Facts & Figures
- 1 person every 3 hours is lost to Mouth cancer
- Over 8300 new cases in the UK each year
- Each year 2700 + lives are lost to Mouth Cancer
- Worldwide Mouth Cancer affects 650,000 per year
- Mouth Cancer is twice as common in men than women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.
- 78% off cases occur in the Over 55 age group
- Incidence has risen by 49% over the past 10 years
- 5 year survival rate has hardly improved in last few decades due to late detection
- 25% of mouth cancer cases have no associated significant risk factors.
- More people in the UK die each year of mouth cancer than of cervical and testicular cancer combined
- Mouth cancer causes more deaths in the UK each year than road traffic accidents
Signs & symptoms of mouth cancer
Although there are risk factors heavily linked to the disease, such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, an unhealthy diet, exposure to UV radiation, mouth cancer can affect anyone.
The signs and symptoms are: –
- Mouth ulcers which do not heal in three weeks;
- Red and white patches in the mouth;
- Any unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck;
- Pain and discomfort in the mouth;
- Bleeding from the mouth or throat;
- Changes in texture; hardness, roughness;
- Teeth that become loose;
- Difficulty or pain with swelling, chewing or pain in the jaw;
- Persistent hoarseness or changes to the voice;
- Persistent coughing or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat;
- Numbness or tingling of the lips or tongue;
- Dentures that suddenly stop fitting properly;
- Unexplained weight loss.
Upon self-examination, always check for new swellings, moles or spots that get bigger become hard or start to bleed, and also changes to the colour or texture of the skin.
Early detection could save your life. If you notice any changes in your mouth speak to a Dentist or Doctor immediately.
For more information on mouth cancer, you can visit the following websites:
We at Williamsons are dealing with a case on behalf of a lady who suffered a delayed diagnosis of mouth cancer, which resulting in her requiring major surgery as the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes and she required chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Our client first noticed a sore on the inside of her cheek in 2011. Despite attending regular dental check-ups and also seeking advice from her GP, the sore was dismissed. After 3 years, the sore began bleeding at night and was also causing our client to avoid certain foods due to the pain when eating them. Eventually, 4 years after our client first began to experience symptoms, she was referred for a biopsy, where it was found that the sore was sadly a cancerous tumor.
Both the Dentist and GP in our client’s case should have been aware that the sore could have been a symptom of mouth cancer and it should have been investigated much earlier.
It is however important that patients too are aware of the symptoms of mouth cancer, so any concerns can be directly expressed to their Dentist or GP in the hope that earlier action can be taken.
We also acted for another individual who sought assistance from her GP for a sore in her cheek. She was referred to the oral maxillo-facial clinic, when a diagnostic biopsy was taken. After numerous trips to the dentist prior to the GP referral, the Claimant was diagnosed with a left sided buccal mucosa (inside lining of the cheeks) consistent with oral lichen planus (rash that can affect different parts of your body) and a right sided buccal mucosa consistent with a squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer).
We instructed a Consultant Maxillo -facial Surgeon to prepare reports. In the liability and causation report it was reported that if a referral had been made earlier, on the balance of probability, the Claimant would not have developed oral cancer. She would have undergone a laser excision of the dysplastic area and would not have needed reconstructive surgery, a neck dissection, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In the condition and prognosis report it was reported that the chance of a tumour recurrence was now less than 50%. The Claimant had been left with a large dimple in the right cheek, which could be improved with further surgery. There was damage to the spinal cord caused as a complication from the radiotherapy. The Claimant has an accessory nerve injury following the neck dissection surgery which causes pain and would be permanent. There was also damage to the marginal mandibular branch of the facial nerve, causing weakness to the movement of the right side of her lower lip and this would be permanent.
If you have suffered a delayed diagnosis of mouth cancer, please contact our Clinical Negligence Department on 01482 323697, who have the skills, knowledge and experience to help you win your clinical negligence claim.