Mouth Cancer Action Month

This November is Mouth Cancer Action Month. Mouth Cancer cases have been rising steadily over the past decade, but with regular checkups they can be identified early.


What are the causes of mouth cancer?

Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff;
  • Heavy alcohol use;
  • Excessive sun exposure to your lips;
  • A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV);
  • A weakened immune system.
In the early stages of the disease, mouth cancer symptoms can be subtle and painless, making it easy to miss. These include a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal within three weeks, white or red patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, neck or head. Other symptoms include a persistent hoarseness in the voice.

Other signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:
  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  • A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

What are the types of mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is categorised by the type of cell that cancer (carcinoma) starts to grow inside. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of mouth cancer, accounting for nine out of 10 cases. The cells are found in many areas of the body, including the inside the mouth, as well as the skin.

One in three mouth cancers are found on the tongue and 23 per cent are found on the tonsils. The other places they can occur include the lips, gums, inside of the cheeks and the floor and roof of the mouth.

Less common types of mouth cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinoma, which is cancers that develop inside the salivary glands;
  • Sarcoma, which grows from abnormalities in bone, cartilage, muscle or other tissue;
  • Oral malignant melanoma, where cancer starts in the cells that produce skin pigment or colour (melanocytes). These appear as very dark, mottled swellings that often bleed;
  • Lymphoma, which grows from cells usually found in lymph glands, but can also grow in the mouth.

If you have any worries please speak to our helpful team and if want to find out more visit the Mouth Cancer Foundation where they have many useful resources.