Mouth Cancer Awareness

Mouth Cancer Awareness

Mouth cancer – an important global healthcare problem

Mouth cancer is a global healthcare problem. There are more than 300 incidents of mouth cancer, oral cavity and pharynx and or the throat reported in Ireland every year. These cancers have previously been more common in men than in women. This is however changing. The rate of incidence of cancer of the mouth in women has increased significantly at a rate of 3% per year since 1994.

This cancer previously mainly affected older people, although more younger people are now being diagnosed. In Britain, the incidence of mouth cancer has increased faster than any other cancer in the past 25 years.

According to the National Cancer Registry in Ireland, roughly half of all mouth cancers and even less of cancers of the pharynx are diagnosed at an early stage. This can result in more complex patient treatment with greater impact on quality of life and overall survival. Whilst it depends on the cancer site, we know that more than half of the patients treated will have good survival outcomes and this continues to improve each year, following treatment.

10 Things you need to know about mouth cancer

1. It is treatable
Like all cancers early detection of mouth cancer is essential because treatment works best before the disease spreads.

2. It is on the increase
300 cases a year in Ireland are detected at various stages.

3. It affects young and old

An increasing number of young women and men are presenting with mouth cancer. This is associated with a papilloma viral infection. The introduction of the National Vaccination programmes are helping to raise awareness and reduce the incidence.
Contact the national vaccination centre for additional information.

4. Smoking increases your risk
Smokers have a higher risk of developing many cancers and especially mouth cancer. If you smoke you need to ideally stop, get help stopping, or be seen regularly by your dentist as you are in a higher risk category.

5. Alcohol increases your risk
More than moderate drinking can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. Where alcohol pools especially in the floor of the mouth and under the tongue cancers can be difficult to detect without regular examinations.

6. Exposure excessive sunlight can increase your risk
This relates specifically to lip cancers.

7. Having regular check-ups with your dentist will increase the chances of detection.
A mouth cancer examination is carried out as part of every dental recall appointment

8. There are signs you should be aware of.
The following signs merit an evaluation by your dentist or oral surgeon.

  • Red patches in the mouth and lips
  • White patches present, especially in smokers
  • A sore which bleeds and fails to heal easily over a 2 week period
  • A lump or thickening of the oral tissues, including the gums, cheeks, lips, tongue and throat.
  • Recent difficulty in chewing food or swallowing which has become difficult

9. If you wear dentures and the fit begins to change.

If the denture becomes sore or ill-fitting it might be the result of a growth or mouth cancer developing under the denture.

10. Rough broken or damaged teeth and poor mouth hygiene
Sharp broken teeth, dentures or bridgework can irritate the tongue and cheeks and cause chronic ulcers, which may fail to heal and give rise to significant changes that may lead to cancerous growths.

If you are concerned about cancer, worried about symptoms or you just want to know more about how you can reduce your risk of getting cancer, ask your dental hygienist or dentist in the Beacon Dental Clinic. You can also talk to a specialist cancer nurse on the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1 800 200 700. Their opening hours are 9-7pm Monday to Thursday and 9-5pm on Fridays. You can email the nurse also at or talk to a nurse live on cancer chat or talk to others in the cancer forum at


American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
Irish Sleep Society
American Collee of Prosthodontists
The American Board of Prosthodontics

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