Lack of mouth cancer awareness is ‘alarming’

A new nationwide survey which has revealed a worrying lack of public awareness into mouth cancer symptoms has been described as ‘alarming’ by one of the UK’s leading health experts.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, made the comments following a study commissioned by the oral healthy charity discovered that more than four in five (81%) failed to know any symptoms of the disease.

The survey, which questioned more than 800 people, looked particularly into the behaviours and attitudes of children aged 12-16 and their parents, in a bid to discover their level of understanding in a disease which is progressively affecting a greater number of younger people.

Results found that more than three in every four parents (76%) failed to recognise any early warning signs of the disease which is diagnosed in 6,000 people in the UK every year.

Of the young people asked, six out of seven (85%) 12 to 16 year olds admitted to not knowing one of the early symptoms of mouth cancer.

Perhaps more worryingly, in a disease notoriously known for affecting men, the awareness of males was particularly low with only one in six (17%) knowing any of the symptoms.

Dr Carter said: ‘The lack of awareness towards a disease which has increased by nearly 50% in the last 10 years is truly alarming. It is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer.

‘They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.  Our message to everyone is ‘If in doubt, get checked out.’

The British Dental Health Foundation conducted the survey in the run up to Mouth Cancer Action Month, which begins on 1 November 2011 and is supported by Denplan.

Over two thirds of mouth cancer cases are detected at a late stage, reducing chances of survival by half while early detection transforms survival chances to more than 90%.

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