Becoming Mouth Cancer Aware

Sadaf Naqvi 3 minutes read


What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, also referred to as oral cancer, includes malignant tumours which develop in the mouth. Common sites include the tongue, floor of the mouth (under tongue), lip, gums, roof of mouth (palate) and inside of your cheeks. Less commonly it can also affect the throat (pharynx) and voicebox (larynx).

What can increase your risk of getting oral cancer?

In the UK the most common risk factors for oral cancer are:

  • Alcohol


  • tobacco

The combined use of tobacco and alcohol significantly increases your risk of oral cancer by up to 30% compared to alcohol or tobacco use alone

Other risk factors include:

  • Betel nut, paan and gutkha
  • Low fruit and vegetable diet
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Over exposure to sunlight 

Despite this, almost half of oral cancer cases in the UK are preventable. 

What are the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer can present in different ways, some less obvious than others. Here are some key warning signs to look out for:

  1. An ulcer in the mouth which does not heal within 3 weeks
  2. A red or white patch in the mouth
  3. Change in voice or speech
  4. Constant sore throat
  5. Numbness or altered sensation on the tongue or lip 
  6. Unexplained lumps, bumps or swellings that do not go away 
  7. Loosening of teeth unexpectedly 

Any of these symptoms could indicate cancer – do not wait and contact your dentist or GP immediately.

What can your dentist do?

Your dentist has a vital role in screening for oral cancer. They will perform a detailed examination and assess for any signs or symptoms as well as helping you identify any risk factors for oral cancer at each routine appointment. 

It is important you see your dentist regularly as they can identify any warning signs early and help ensure you get the best care. 

If in doubt, do not wait and make an appointment earlier. Early detection of oral cancer means better chances of survival. 

What happens if your dentist is concerned?

If your dentist has any suspicions of oral cancer they will promptly refer you to hospital for detailed tests to allow an accurate diagnosis. There you will see a specialist team of oral and maxillofacial surgeons. 

How to prevent getting mouth cancer? 

Here are some effective methods to prevent mouth cancer:

  1. Do not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is the recommended weekly amount.  
  2. Stop smoking 
  3. Do not use alternative forms of tobacco or smokeless tobacco.
  4. Eat a healthy and balanced diet  including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
  5. Visit your dentist regularly 

Where to get more support?

The Vallance dental team can provide you with information about getting support to help cut down on alcohol, stop smoking and help address any concerns you may have. 

Feel free to talk to any member of the team when you next attend for your appointment.  

Other places to get help include:

  • Local pharmacy 
  • GP
  • Online 

Here are some useful links:

Mouth cancer foundation -> 

Be Smoke Free – Manchester -> 

NHS -> 

General cancer information in other languages ->


1 Macmillan Cancer Support (2020) The mouth, throat, nose and ears. Available from: [Accessed: 03/02/21]

2  Oral Health Foundation. (n.d.) Mouth Cancer Risk Factors. Available from: [Accessed: 03/02/2021]