‘Magnitude’ of mouth cancer raises concern

A leading professor of oral medicine has expressed concern about the lack of improvement in UK mouth cancer survival rates compared to other cancers.

Professor Saman Warnakulasuriya, Professor of Oral Medicine at King’s College London, expressed his concerns at the launch of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month held at the House of Commons.

During his speech at the House of Commons, Professor Warnakulasuriya said: ‘The magnitude of the problem of mouth cancer in the UK is growing. The latest figures show a 41% increase in just 10 years.

‘While the treatment of many cancers is leading to an improvement in survival rates, the same cannot be said for mouth cancer. The proportion that dies has remained more or less constant.’

Professor Warnakulasuriya suggested that ‘…late presentation and also a lack of clinical trials introducing a new generation of anti-cancer medicines to combat mouth cancer’ were the likely reasons for the disappointing improvement in survival rates.

Professor Warnakulasuriya continued: ‘However, it is encouraging that significant work is being done help improve the skills and knowledge of dental professionals, including the launch of a new Europe-wide website at www.oralcancerldv.org dedicated to the early detection and prevention of oral cancer.”

Throughout November, leading oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, which runs Mouth Cancer Action Month, is hoping to improve ‘late presentation’ of mouth cancer with its campaign message of ‘If in doubt, get checked out’.

One in two people who contract mouth cancer die, without early diagnosis. However, early detection of the disease can improve five year survival rates to 90%.

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