Oral cancer has become increasingly prevalent in the UK in the last ten years, but research shows that many people are still unaware of the disease and this is why survival rates have stalled in comparison to other forms of cancer. Studies show that many people are not sure of the causes, risk factors or symptoms of oral cancer and this means that many cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there is a high risk that cancer has spread.
The main risk factors for oral cancer are drinking, smoking and HPV infection. HPV stands for human papilloma virus and is also linked to cervical cancer. If you drink and smoke, this increases your risk of developing oral cancer by up to 30 times compared to somebody who doesn’t smoke and drinks infrequently.
Symptoms of oral cancer include the development of red or white patches in the mouth, any lumps or swelling and ulcers that take a long time to heal. Additional signs may include a persistent sore throat and feeling like it is difficult to swallow.
Screening is important because it can save lives. Screening detects changes in the oral tissue before they become visible to the human eye and this means that any changes can be detected as early as possible. Early treatment increases the chances of survival by up to 90 percent because there is a much lower risk that cancer has progressed or spread.
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