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The Signs of Oral cancer

Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. It is important to know what to look out for so you can spot the signs early. Approximately 8,300 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. That's 1 in 50 cancer diagnoses. Half of all oral cancers are at an advanced stage when diagnosed therefore, an early diagnosis can be crutial.

Some common symptoms include:

  1. Ulcers (present for three weeks or more and usually unilateral)

  2. White patches (Leukoplakia)

  3. Red patches (Erythroplakia)

  4. Speckled red and white patches (Erythroleukoplakia)

  5. Lumps in the neck

These can appear in a range of area's such as:

  1. The sides of the tongue

  2. The under surface of the tongue

  3. The floor of the mouth

Certain risk factors are greatly associated with oral cancer for example, smoking and drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer. Also, age, socio-economic deprivation and Human Papilloma Virus are risk factors for oral cance.

Cancer research UK explain other risk factors:

Sunlight and sunbeds

'Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. Skin cancers are relatively common on the head and neck as these areas are more often exposed to UV radiation. Skin cancer can develop on the lip.' (Cancer research, 2022).

Weak immune system

'Your body's immune system fights infection. Some illnesses and medications can weaken your immune system. Research shows an increased risk of mouth and oropharyngeal cancer in people:

  • with HIV/AIDS - there are higher rates of Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in people with HIV

  • taking medicines to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant' (Cancer research, 2022)

If oral cancer is diagnosed early enough there is a better chance that the cancer can be surgically removed. This means that there is a higher chance that the cancer will be cured and not come back.

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