Oral cancer cases in the UK have increased by more than a third in the past decade, hitting a record high, according to a new report.
The number of cases has more than doubled in the last generation and other lifestyle factors have been added to previous common causes such as smoking and drinking.
According to the Oral Health Foundation, 8,864 people in the UK were diagnosed with the condition last year – a 36% increase over a decade ago, with 3,034 people losing their lives in one year.
This is a 40 percent increase in deaths in the past 10 years, and a 20 percent increase in the past five years.
The findings are part of the Oral Health Foundation’s new Oral Cancer UK 202 report, which was released in conjunction with the month of November for Oral Cancer Control.
In the early stages, symptoms of oral cancer can be subtle and painless, making it easy to miss.
It could be a mouth ulcer that does not heal within three weeks, white or red spots in the mouth, unusual bumps or bumps in the mouth, head, or neck, or any persistent hoarseness.
One in three oral cancers is found on the tongue and 23% is found in the amygdala.
Other places to check for oral cancer include the lips, gums, the inside of the cheeks, as well as the floor and roof of the mouth.
Nearly two out of three people have never checked their mouths for signs of oral cancer, even though it took less than a minute.
People are three times more likely to be screened for testicular or breast cancer routinely.
Oral cancer survival rates have barely improved over the past 20 years, in part because many cases are diagnosed too late. Just over half of oral cancers are diagnosed in stage IV – when the cancer is more advanced.
Nigel Carter, executive director of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “While most cancers are regressing, cases of oral cancer continue to increase at an alarming rate.
“Traditional causes such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are rapidly influenced by emerging risk factors such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
The stigma around oral cancer has changed dramatically. Now it’s a cancer that can really affect anyone.
We have seen firsthand the devastating impact oral cancer can have on human life. It changes the way a person speaks, makes it difficult to eat and drink, and often changes a person’s physical appearance.
“During Oral Cancer Control Month, we will be working to raise awareness of oral cancer.
“We urge everyone to become more oral aware, be able to recognize early warning signs of oral cancer and be aware of common causes.
“Most importantly, 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 oral cancer when she was just 26 years old. The young man who does not smoke.
But Ms. Webster Salter represents a growing number of young people being diagnosed with the disease.
Ms. Webster Salter, who lives in Petersfield, Hampshire, said: “I had some ulcers for three to four years before that. [mouth cancer] proces.
“I wasn’t worried about them at first, because I’m run over. I’ve been jet-lagged, flying all the time with my work, and ulcers are often a sign of celiac disease, which is what I have, so I attribute that to that.
“They would come and go, but they were always in the same area, they never went all the way, but they would go off if I got hit.
“They looked like ulcers, but just a bigger spot and they started turning white, and they had red around them too, so they looked quite inflamed. I thought it might have been an infection or something.”
As a precaution, Ms. Webster Salter went to the dentist and asked about them.
She said, “About a year before my 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 against each other, so we advise maybe straightening your teeth. And remove the wisdom teeth.
“So I did it. I paid for braces and wisdom teeth removal and I had really great teeth, but I still had ulcers.
“My mom kept telling me to go for a scan, so I went to my doctor, who asked me for a biopsy.”
She was finally biopsied in April 2021 after the ulcer had significantly worsened. A biopsy showed that the ulcer was oral cancer.
She added, “I went to see the results and he asked me if anyone was with you today?” I looked at him and said: Not good, right? He said: No, it is not. I’m sorry, you have cancer.
“I remember saying to him: What do you mean? Absolutely not, and I think I almost laughed. It was a shock because I am a healthy person.”
Ms. Webster Salter underwent a nine-and-a-half hour surgery to save her life, in which part of her tongue was removed. The piece that was removed was replaced with a muscle from his leg.
They also took a lymph node from her neck to see if the cancer had spread, which it had not.
As a result of the swelling from the surgery, she underwent a tracheostomy, in which a tube is inserted into her neck to help with breathing.
Ms. “My tracheostomy was in place for seven days, so my body didn’t swallow or breathe through my mouth for so long that your muscles often took a while to get back into it,” Webster Salter said.
“I remember the first time they tried to get him out. They blocked that hole so I could breathe out of here and I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I think my body wasn’t ready because it was like suffocation because I couldn’t breathe through my mouth.
“It was like I had a mouth full of straw or hay. It was so hard, so hoarse, so trapped. And I remember panicking, I was like I couldn’t, so they tried again the next day and every day it got a little better and better.”
After the operation, a. Webster Salter had to learn to speak, eat, and walk again through speech therapy and physical therapy, but he didn’t need any other treatment.
Ms. Webster Salter added, “There is a stereotype of oral cancer. I was told ‘Oh you’re too young’, ‘Oh my God, it wouldn’t be like that.'” But it can really happen to anyone, not just smokers.
“People think you must be like a very old man who smokes 50 a day, but you don’t. I took a little poster at the clinic to say, ‘Oh my God, this is oral cancer’ and by that time it was too late anyway.”
The Oral Health Foundation aims to improve people’s lives by reducing the damage caused by oral diseases – many of which are entirely preventable.
Oral Cancer Action Month is held throughout the month of November.
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