‘Your efforts could save a life’: how you can help against mouth cancer

After FMC attended the Mouth Cancer Foundation’s annual 10km walk in September, we spoke to Dr Philip Lewis, MCF president, about the importance of getting involved in events like these and keeping up to date with mouth cancer education.

What is the mission of the Mouth Cancer Foundation?

Our aim is to save and improve lives. We do this by raising awareness, providing education to professionals and the public, supporting other groups working in the mouth cancer field and helping sufferers and their loved ones.

Mouth cancer doesn’t only affect the patient; it affects everyone around them. It causes anxiety among friends and family, and may cause lifestyle changes affecting partners and everybody else in the patient’s circle of friends and relations.

Why is it so important to educate dental professionals?

The early detection of mouth cancer has been a CPD recommended core subject for a number of years now and most dental professionals recognise signs and symptoms as well as the risk factors associated with the disease.

But just as we repeat CPR training each year, it’s essential for professionals to take regular updates. We need to keep our knowledge up to date, learn about new developments and, most importantly, keep our level of awareness high.

We see many patients each year. As well as examining them for early signs of mouth cancer, we have a great opportunity to educate and inform patients so that they can help themselves.

How can dental professionals get involved?

Attend regular lectures – online as well as face to face – and make full use of the resources provided by the Mouth Cancer Foundation. These are available on our website: www.mouthcancerfoundation.org

Remember, helping with early detection isn’t confined to clinicians; the whole dental team needs to be involved, including non-clinical team members.

Everyone has an important role to play. Especially, encourage patients to regularly self-examine. It isn’t difficult and, again, full details are available on the website.

During lockdown, there were concerns that more mouth cancer cases were not being picked up by dental professionals. Is this still the case?

The pandemic caused untold problems with early detection; not only for patients with mouth cancer but for many other medical conditions as well.

The problem that clinicians were not available to offer appointments for a while was compounded by the reluctance of many people to attend dental practices even when they re-opened because of a perceived risk of catching Covid in enclosed spaces.

In addition, as we all know, the pandemic caused enormous waiting lists to develop. These persist, denying patients the opportunity for regular early detection examinations.

That’s why self-examination is so important. People are already used to examining themselves for early signs of other cancers.

So a monthly, two-minute check shouldn’t be a problem to incorporate in our home health care protocols and could well save a life or at least reduce the amount of aggressive treatments that might be necessary if the cancer is diagnosed late.

In September you hosted your annual 10km walk. How did it go?

It was really great! Being back in Hyde Park for the first time since the pandemic allowed many old friends to meet each other again as well as making new friends from among the numerous first-time walkers.

The walk is free to enter but fund raising from the kind efforts of our supporters exceeded our expectations. Like all charities, the Mouth Cancer Foundation relies on voluntary donations and there’s still time to help!

Throughout November you can still take part in our Walk From Home initiative. Full details are on our website.

Your efforts could save a life or the quality of life for the people who rely on us!

What message would you like to send to dental professionals?

Mouth cancer can affect anyone; not just the people in the recognised risk groups. Your family, your friends; even you could be affected.

Early detection is so important. Please keep your knowledge up to date, encourage self-examination and make sure the whole dental team is involved.

Why not come and meet us? Join us on our next free 10K walk in Hyde Park in September next year. If you’d like to get involved before that, look on our website or call the office on 020 8940 5680.

We’d love to meet you!

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