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If in doubt about oral health – get it checked!

Mouth being examined

It takes just a couple of minutes, but a quick self-check of your oral health could save your life.

That’s the message during Mouth Cancer Action Month which takes place throughout November.

During the campaign, people are being encouraged to do monthly oral health self-checks.

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Specialist Dental Service is encouraging people not to ignore any concerns about oral health – including any suspicious lumps, bumps, numbness, or lingering mouth ulcers of three or more weeks.

The message is ‘get it checked’ – see a dentist, or if you do not have one, call 111 or see your doctor.

Oral cancer has an 80 to 90 per cent survival rate if caught at the early stages.

Jasmine Little, NHFT’s Oral Health Promotion Specialist, said: “We’re encouraging everyone to do regular two-minute self-checks. All you need is a mirror, a light source and clean hands. If you are concerned about anything do get it checked out – especially unusual lumps, swelling, pain, or mouth ulcers which are sticking around for longer than three weeks. It’s probably nothing, but always best to double check with a dentist, doctor or by phoning 111. As with any cancer, it is better if mouth cancer is diagnosed at the earliest opportunity.”

In the UK, one person every three hours is lost to mouth cancer. More than 8,800 people in the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year – and it's twice as common in men, than women.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor. Other risks include drinking alcohol to excess which can increase risks four fold – drinkers and smokers are 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer – also, poor diet, and exposure to the sun which can cause skin cancer related to the lips and face.

Mouth Cancer Action Month is encouraging people to perform this two-minute 7-step oral health self-exam each month:

  • Face – Look for swellings you have noticed before and inspect your skin.
  • Neck – Run your fingers under your jaw and feel either side of your neck – are there any swellings?
  • Lips – Pull your upper lip upwards and bottom lip downwards - look inside for any sores or changes in colour.
  • Gums – Examine your gums feeling around the gum for anything unusual.
  • Cheeks – Look for any red or white patches. Check for ulcers, lump and tenderness.
  • Tongue – Look for swelling, ulcers or change in colour. Examine the underside of your tongue.
  • Floor and roof of mouth – Tilt your head back and open your mouth. Look for changes in colour, ulcers or swelling.

Look out for lots of useful information about mouth cancer on NHFT’s social media channels throughout November.

For more information about mouth cancer, or to make a charity donation, visit www.mouthcancerfoundation.org

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