Mouth cancer drive must be ‘all year round’

A dental health expert is urging the dental the profession to continue to advise the public about the dangers of the killer disease.

Despite 2010 proving one of the most successful campaigns since its first outing 10 years ago, Dr Nigel Carter, of the British Dental Health Foundation, is asking health professionals from around the UK to keep the public aware of mouth cancer all year round.

Dr Carter said: ‘The support from the profession since the campaign started has been sensational and has grown year-on-year. The sheer number of surgeries and PCTs taking part, through free screenings, decking the walls with our posters, sporting Blue Ribbon Badges and working hard to highlight the campaign has been immensely pleasing.

‘Unfortunately, mouth cancer has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing cancers, so in addition to raising awareness throughout the campaign, we’re asking the profession to carry on their good work and take action on the front line against this disease all year round – we are certainly in a great position to do so.’

Rates of mouth cancer have increased by more than 40% over the last decade while the latest figures show a worrying 10% increase during the last year alone.

There are now 6,000 new cases a year, with survival rates increasing massively with early detection, from just five out of every ten people to nine out of ten.

‘Opening the practice doors to oral screening sessions, educating patients on risk factors will help save lives, boost awareness and take action to curb the impact of mouth cancer. Offering simple self–diagnosis advice such as looking for ulcers which do not heal within three weeks and red or white patches or unusual lumps in the mouth and neck, can also help towards early detection,’ Dr Carter added.

Mouth Cancer Action Month ran throughout November and with the help from the profession was able to spread awareness of mouth cancer to the wider public – a disease which kills on average one person every five hours in the UK.

‘Dental payment plan specialists, Denplan, have continued to sponsor our campaign making elements such as the survey as well as design, print and distribution of the poster possible.

‘I would like to thank all those who were able to attend the launch of the campaign at the Houses of Parliament. It was marvellous to see so many people there and it turned out to be one of the best attended launches we have had – it really does go to show that we care about this devastating disease.’

The campaign survey in conjunction with Denplan, which questioned more than 1,000 people in the UK about their knowledge of mouth cancer, brought up some worrying results with one person in every 10 claimed not even to have heard of mouth cancer. Meanwhile, more than a third dramatically underestimated the prevalence of the disease by incorrectly saying that mouth cancer was responsible for one death every day in the UK.

Dr Henry Clover, deputy chief dental officer at Denplan said: ‘The statistics showing an increase in deaths from mouth cancer are deeply worrying. But there is good news – with early diagnosis, survival chances increase to 90%.

‘The British Dental Health Foundation is leading the way in raising awareness of this killer disease and we are delighted to continue to support this campaign, to encourage greater participation from the dental profession and to help reduce these figures.’

During the month, the Foundation also continued campaigning for vaccines for boys to protect against the risks of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus and smoking cessation powers for dental professionals.

For further information, visit the dedicated campaign website

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