Published on: 30 October 2019

Oral health promoters from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust will be raising awareness and offering mouth screening during November, which is Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The team will be going to various venues in South Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead, including colleges and community bases for vulnerable groups such as older people, the homeless, people with learning disabilities and those with mental health, drug and alcohol issues. They will also be at Sunderland Royal Hospital in the main concourse on Thursday, November 7th, and at South Tyneside District Hospital, near the main entrance, on Tuesday, November 26th, from 10am-3pm on both days.

Last year, 8,337 people in the UK were given the life-changing news that they had mouth cancer. These numbers continue to rise while the disease claims more lives than cervical and testicular cancer combined.

Joanne Purvis, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Oral Health Promotion Lead, said: "It is important that everyone knows how to spot mouth cancer early as, with early diagnosis, the chances of surviving are nine out of 10. The advice is ‘If in doubt, get checked out’. Check regularly for any unusual changes in the mouth and act quickly when you spot something out of the ordinary by seeing your doctor or dentist. People should also regularly visit their dentist."

Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks
  • Red and white patches in the mouth
  • Lumps and swelling in the mouth or head and neck area 

Up to 90% of all mouth cancers are linked to lifestyle factors. This means that, with a few small changes, you can help cut your chances of developing mouth cancer.

Causes linked to mouth cancer include:

  • Smoking. Smoking tobacco increases your risk of developing mouth cancer by up to 10 times, compared with never-smokers
  • Alcohol. Drinking alcohol to excess increases your risk of mouth cancer. Alcohol is linked to just under a third (30%) of all mouth cancers
  • Diet. Around a third of mouth cancers are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet and a lack of vitamins and minerals. It is recommended that you eat a healthy, balanced diet including lots of fruit and vegetables each day. Increasing evidence also suggests that Omega 3, found in foods such as eggs and fish, can help lower your risk. Foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, are also said to do the same.
  • HPV. Reports have linked mouth cancer to the Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can be spread through oral sex and research suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer. Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of contracting HPV.