Causes of oral cancer are growing as cases soar in the UK

Causes of oral cancer are growing as cases soar in the UK

Cases of mouth cancer in the UK have risen by more than a third in the past decade to hit a record, according to a new report.

The number of cases has more than doubled within the last generation and previously common causes such as smoking and drinking are being added to by other lifestyle factors.

According to the Oral Health Foundation, 8,864 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year – a 36 per cent increase on a decade ago, with 3,034 people dying from it within a year.

This is a 40 percent increase in deaths over the past 10 years and a 20 percent increase over the past five.

The findings are part of the Oral Health Foundation’s new State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 202, which has been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.

In the early stages, symptoms of oral cancer can be subtle and painless, making it easy to miss.

They may be a mouth ulcer that does not heal within three weeks, white or red patches in the mouth, unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or throat, or any persistent hoarseness in the voice.

One in three oral cancers is found on the tongue and 23 percent are found on the tonsil.

The other places to check for oral cancer include the lips, gums, inside of the cheeks, as well as the floor and roof of the mouth.

Almost two out of three people have never checked their mouth for signs of oral cancer, even though it takes less than a minute.

People are three times more likely to routinely check for testicular or breast cancer.

Survival rates for oral cancer have barely improved over the past 20 years, in part because so many cases are diagnosed too late. Just over half of all cancers in the mouth are diagnosed in stage four – where the cancer is most advanced.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “While most cancers are declining, cases of oral cancer continue to rise at an alarming rate.

“Traditional causes such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are rapidly being eclipsed by new risk factors such as human papillomavirus (HPV).

“The stigma surrounding oral cancer has changed dramatically. It is now a cancer that can really affect anyone.

“We have seen first hand the devastating effect oral cancer can have on a person’s life. It changes the way someone speaks, it makes eating and drinking more difficult and often changes a person’s physical appearance.

“During Oral Cancer Action Month we will be raising awareness of oral cancer.

“We urge everyone to become more ‘mouth aware’ by being able to recognize the early warning signs of oral cancer and to be aware of the most common causes.

“The most important thing is that if you notice anything unusual, please do not delay and seek help from a doctor or dentist.”

Charlotte Webster-Salter received the life-changing news that she had mouth cancer when she was just 26. The former cabin crew member, now training to be a midwife, does not fit the typical mouth cancer patient – being an active young woman who does not smoke.

But Ms Webster-Salter represents a growing number of younger people being diagnosed with the disease.

Ms Webster-Salter, who lives in Petersfield, Hampshire, said: “I had some sores for about three to four years before I got my [mouth cancer] Operation.

“I wasn’t worried about them at first because I get run down. I was jet lagged and flying all the time with my job and often sores are a sign of celiac disease, which I have, so I put it down to that.

“They came and went but always in the same area, they never went away completely but they used to flare up if I got run over.

“They felt like sores, but just a bigger spot and they were starting to turn white, and they had red around them as well, so they looked quite inflamed. I thought maybe it was a bit of an infection or something.

As a precaution, Ms Webster-Salter went to the dentist and asked about them.

She said: “About a year before I had the operation I went to the dentist and they said, ‘well, I don’t really know what it is, it could be because your teeth are rubbing so we would advise you to straighten your teeth. and take out your wisdom teeth’.

“So, I did it. I paid for braces, got my wisdom teeth out and had really nice teeth, but still had the sores.

“My mom kept telling me to go and get it checked so I went to my doctor who sent me for a biopsy.”

She finally had her biopsy in April 2021 after the sores got significantly worse. The biopsy showed that the sores were oral cancer.

She added: “I went in for the results, and he asked, ‘Do you have anyone with you today?’ I looked at him and said, ‘That’s not good, is it?’ He replied ‘No, it’s not. I’m really sorry, you’ve got cancer.

“I remember saying to him, ‘What do you mean? Absolutely not,’ and I think I almost laughed. It was such a shock because I’m otherwise a healthy person.”

Ms Webster-Salter underwent a nine-and-a-half-hour life-saving operation to have part of her tongue removed. The piece that was taken out was replaced with muscle from her leg.

They also took a lymph node from her neck to check if the cancer had spread, which it had not.

As a result of swelling from the surgery, she was fitted with a tracheostomy, where a tube is inserted into the neck to help with breathing.

Ms Webster-Salter said: “My tracheostomy was fitted for seven days so my body hadn’t starved or breathed through my mouth for so long that it often takes your muscles a while to get back to it.

“I remember the first time they tried to take it out. They covered this hole so I could then breathe through here and it didn’t, it just didn’t work, I think my body wasn’t ready because it was like being suffocated because I couldn’t breathe through my mouth.

“It was like my mouth was full of straw or hay. It was just so hard, so husky, so firm. And I remember the panic, I was like no, I can’t, so they tried again the next day and then every day it just got a little better and better.”

After the operation, Ms Webster-Salter had to learn to talk, eat and walk again through speech and physical therapy, but has not needed any further treatment.

Ms Webster-Salter added: “There’s a stereotype to mouth cancer. I was told ‘oh, you’re too young’, ‘God it’s not going to be like that’. But it really can happen to anyone, not just smokers.

“People think you have to be like a really old man who smokes 50 a day, but you don’t. It took this little poster in the clinic for me to say, ‘Oh my God, it’s mouth cancer’ and then it was still too late.”

The goal of the Oral Health Foundation is to improve people’s lives by reducing the harm caused by oral diseases – many of which are completely preventable.

Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November.


#oral #cancer #growing #cases #soar

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *