70% of Brits Don’t Recognise Mouth Cancer

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Oral Health Foundation data reveals most Brits don’t recognise mouth cancer symptoms

Cases of mouth cancer in the United Kingdom have nearly doubled in the last 20 years, yet an alarming number are unable to identify the early warning signs and symptoms. Last year, more than 8,700 British adults were given the news that they had mouth cancer, which means a new diagnosis nearly every hour.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month reveals that 71% of Brits do not know the symptoms of mouth cancer, while 83% are not confident about doing a mouth cancer check at home, and 62% confess to never checking themselves for signs of the disease.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes with the number of cases on the rise, it is important for everybody to know how to spot the early signs of mouth cancer and how to perform a simple self-check.

He says: “In the UK, and around the world, the number of people affected by mouth cancer continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Everybody is at risk of mouth cancer, and with limited access to dentistry at the moment, it is more important than ever for people to be vigilant.

“That’s why it is so important to know how and where mouth cancer can strike. Look for mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks; red or white patches in the mouth, and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck.

“Most mouth cancers appear on the tongue – around a third of all cases – but it can also strike on the tonsils, gums and lips. It can also be found on the roof or floor of the mouth, as well as the throat.”

The new research shows that 52% of people are aware that long lasting mouth ulcers could be a sign of mouth cancer, while only 41% know that red patches and 48% recognise white patches might be a symptom. Similarly, less than half, just 47% identify lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck as a potential sign of mouth cancer, and even fewer, just 23% know that persistent hoarseness might also be a link.

The research has been published to coincide with 20 years of Mouth Cancer Action Month, and the picture is bleak. New annual cases of mouth cancer have soared by 97% since the year 2000, while fatalities have increased by 48% in the last decade.

For the last 20 years, the Oral Health Foundation has received support for the campaign from Denplan, part of Simplyhealth. This partnership fights to turn the tide against the disease and create a more mouthaware population.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Head Dental Officer of Denplan, highlights that a potentially life-saving mouth cancer check is easy and can take as little as 45 seconds. She says: “By spotting mouth cancer early, patients have a much better chance of beating it. With early diagnosis, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten and which is why knowing what to look for is so important.

“Simply by checking your cheeks, gums, lips, tongues and tonsils, the floor and roof of the mouth, as well as your head and neck, while looking for mouth ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth or unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head and neck, you will become more mouthaware and might catch the disease early enough for effective treatment.

“It is important that we not only recognise, but act on unusual changes in the mouth. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, get checked out by your dentist or doctor.”

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to do a self-check for the disease, visit www.mouthcancer.org