What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer or cancer of the oral cavity, is often used to describe a number of cancers that start in the region of the mouth. These most commonly occur on the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth but can also start in the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, tonsils and salivary glands. Mouth cancers are generally classified as head and neck cancers. While the term mouth cancer is seldom used in scientific literature nor in Australia’s official cancer data collection system, we use it here because it is used in basic information to promote cancer prevention and is easy to understand.
Mouth cancer symptoms
Symptoms of mouth cancer can include:
- a lump in your neck
- loose teeth
- swelling or a sore on your lip that won’t heel
- difficult or painful swallowing
- changes in speech
- bleeding or numbness in the mouth
- white or red patches on the mouth, tongue or gums
- unexplained weight loss.
Causes of mouth cancer
The main risk factors for most mouth cancers are tobacco and alcohol consumption. Other risk factors can include:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- family history of mouth cancers
- poor oral hygiene and gum disease
- exposure to the sun
- chewing the seed of the areca palm tree (sometimes called areca or betel nut).
Preventing mouth cancer
Around 59% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking. Around 31% are caused by excess alcohol consumption. So quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption will significantly reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer, especially those inside the mouth. Cancers of the lip are commonly associated with UV exposure, so it is also important to protect yourself from the sun when the UV is high.
If you notice any of these symptoms or have an unusual spot in your mouth that isn’t healing. Please book an appointment to review.