In 2011, there were 7,698 new cases in the UK, an increase of 50% since the turn of the century.
With more than 6,000 new cases in England alone, Scotland has the most cases per 100,000 people and almost double the number of men contracted the disease compared to women. It is one of the few cancer variations on the rise and claims more lives than cervical and testicular cancer combined, yet four out of five people still do not know any symptoms of the disease.
Mouth cancer can occur in different forms on the mouth, tongue and lips. Rare types of mouth cancer include salivary gland, lymphoma and melanoma. The two most common symptoms of mouth cancer are an ulcer that does not heal and constant discomfort or pain in the mouth. Mouth cancer can be treated more successfully when it is diagnosed early, and this is why it was added to the GDC’s recommended core CPD topics. It is thus important for dental professionals to highlight the importance to patients of looking out for any changes in their mouth, including ulcers and red or white patches that have not cleared up within three weeks.
Most causes of mouth cancer are linked to alcohol and tobacco. The risk of mouth cancer is increased if tobacco and alcohol are consumed together. A diet containing large quantities of red meat and fried food can also be a contributory factor.
As highlighted in media coverage of Michael Douglas and his three-year battle with this disease, recent research has linked mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV). What can dental professionals do to help? It is important for all members of the dental team to raise patient awareness of the simple lifestyle changes that can help prevent developing mouth cancer (or prevent it reoccurring after successful treatment). These are not smoking, keeping to the recommended weekly limit for alcohol consumption (21 units for men and 14 units for women) and eating a healthy, balanced diet, full of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and fish. It is the clinician’s responsibility to perform checks that include feeling the neck and face to check for swellings, as mouth cancer can often be discovered in its early stages.
Regular dental appointments at your NHS Dentist are thus imperative in the prevention and early detection of mouth cancer. Patients with particularly busy lives need simple and convenient methods for booking regular dental visits.
To book an appointment at your NHS Dentist, please contact us today.