Mouth cancer

Learn more about mouth cancer and its symptoms.

What happens during a mouth cancer check?

A mouth cancer check is quick and painless. Your dentist will examine the inside of your mouth using a small mirror, and possibly a microscope, checking for anything unusual. They will check your lips, gums, inside your cheeks, under and around your tongue, and the roof and floor of your mouth. He or she will also feel the area under your jaw and the sides of your neck to check for any lumps or swellings that could be linked to cancer.

Different dentists may conduct these checks in different ways, so be sure to ask your dentist what will happen during your check before you begin if you have any concerns.

You can take a look at what happens during a typical mouth cancer check in our video.

What happens after a mouth cancer check?

If your dentist does find anything unusual in your mouth, they’re likely to refer you to a specialist consultant at your local hospital. The consultant may carry out a biopsy of some of the cells from the area, which will be examined under a microscope.

Other tests may be carried out, such as blood tests, x-rays or scans. If cancer is found, the consultant will discuss with you what course of treatment is most suitable for you. He or she should keep you informed and answer any questions you may have.

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Denplan presents: a mouth cancer check

What is mouth cancer and who can it affect?

Mouth cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, roof and floor of the mouth, jaws, salivary glands and throat. It can affect anyone, and there are on average, over 7,500 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed in the UK every year*.

*Oral Health Foundation,, 30 October 2017.
What causes mouth cancer?
The majority of mouth cancer cases can be linked to either tobacco or alcohol – or both, however it can just occur even if a person hasn’t be exposed to the typical risk factors. Alcohol increases the risk of mouth cancer, and if it is used with tobacco, the risk increases even further. Traditional customs of chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutka and paan are even more dangerous.

Mouth cancer has also been linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV) which can be spread through oral sex, as well as poor diet.

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer can have many different symptoms. Here are the main ones:

  • A mouth ulcer that doesn't heal within three weeks
  • Red or white patches in the mouth or throat
  • Unusual lumps or swellings
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Teeth that become loose for no obvious reason
  • Bleeding or numbness within the mouth
  • Changes in the voice

Can mouth cancer be cured?
If the symptoms of mouth cancer are caught and treated early, the chances of a cure are good. This is why it’s especially important to visit a dentist regularly, so that they can spot any of the early signs before it’s too late.
What can I do to prevent mouth cancer?
There are many steps you can take to keep your mouth and body healthy, and in return, reduce the risk of mouth cancer. Firstly, take good care of your teeth and gums every day, and follow the advice your dental team give you. Attend regular appointments and let your dental team know about any changes in your mouth.

Cutting down on smoking and drinking, or giving them up completely will substantially lower your risk of mouth cancer. Lifestyle choices such as multiple sexual partners may increase your risk of being exposed to the human papilloma virus (HPV), which has been linked to mouth cancer.

If you know you’re going to be out in the sun, make sure to wear a high factor sun cream and use a sun-protecting balm on your lips. A diet rich in Vitamins A, C and E can also provide protection against the risk of mouth cancer, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables.