October is the month of making positive changes. Stoptober and Sober October are in full swing, challenging people to embark on healthier lifestyles. We also have Mouth Cancer Action Month coming up in November, and it couldn’t come at a better time as both smoking and drinking alcohol are leading causes of mouth cancer.
It’s estimated that one person is lost to mouth cancer every three hours, and UK cases of mouth cancer continue to increase year on year. However, the chances of survival are 9 out of 10 if the cancer is detected early. An important part of Mouth Cancer Action Month is raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer to aid early detection, in addition to the changes we can make to reduce our risk.
In this blog post, we’ll be talking about 3 ways you can take action against mouth cancer this month: stopping smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, and educating yourself about early detection.
Stop smoking this Stoptober
Stoptober takes place every year in October, challenging people to quit smoking for 28 days. Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death, including mouth cancer. People who smoke are up to 10 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers, and giving up smoking is one of the best preventative measures you can take against mouth cancer.
Since its inception in 2012, Stoptober has successfully helped 2.5 million smokers make a quit attempt. Even if you have been smoking for many years, quitting greatly reduces your risk of developing mouth cancer in addition to other smoking related illnesses. It’s a sure-fire way to improve your physical and mental health, and it positively impacts your family and friends. Whether you’re taking part in Stoptober this year or are just interested in quitting, the NHS has lots of free tools, advice and tips to support you along the way.
Go sober for October
Not only is it Stoptober this month, it’s also Sober October – an event that encourages people to go alcohol-free for a month to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Drinking alcohol regularly can increase your risk of developing all types of oral cancer, and those who drink are 6 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-drinkers. One study has even found that stopping drinking reduces the risk of developing certain oral cancers by 2% every year. Even if you don’t want to stop drinking altogether, Sober October is a great opportunity to limit your intake and make a positive change for yourself and someone else.
Educate yourself about early detection
Mouth Cancer Action Month takes place every November to raise awareness of mouth cancer. Although 88% of UK adults have now heard of mouth cancer, only 17% are aware of the major signs and symptoms. Knowing them and knowing how to check for them means that you are more likely to detect anything unusual early on, and early detection can save lives.
Checking yourself at home is easy to do and takes less than one minute. It’s recommended you do this regularly, especially between dental visits:
- The first step of a self-check is to feel your face for any unusual lumps and bumps around your head and neck.
- You can then start checking the inside of your mouth, checking your tongue, making sure to check each side and underneath, looking for any unusual red or white patches, lumps or an ulcer that has lasted for longer than 3 weeks.
- Next, run your finger along the inside of both cheeks, looking for any lumps and bumps or red/white patches.
- Tilt your head back slightly and check the roof of your mouth, running your finger along it to check for lumps or swelling.
- Lastly, check the inside of your lips for red or white patches or lumps.
If you’re in doubt about anything you see during your self-check, it’s important to get it checked out.
Mouth cancer prevention
90% of mouth cancer risk factors are lifestyle-based. We’ve already covered how quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake can reduce your risk, but what else can you do?
- Practising good oral hygiene, brushing and flossing your teeth everyday can reduce your risk of developing oral cancers.
- Keeping up with your regular visits to the dentist will also help you stay on top of any changes to your mouth.
- Routine oral screening is an essential part of early detection. If you are unable to access routine oral screening, it might be worth considering a dental plan that includes your check-ups, hygienist appointments and oral screening in one affordable monthly fee.
- Get vaccinated against HPV. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is one of the leading causes of mouth cancer, closely behind smoking and drinking.
- Protect your lips from the sun with an SPF lip balm, preventing skin cancer developing on the lips.
- Eat a healthy diet. Around a third of mouth cancers are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet and a lack of vitamins and minerals.
If you have noticed any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article or are due a check-up at the dentist, don’t hesitate to book your appointment by calling us on 01482 565488.