Worrying about mouth cancer? Get screened!

November is the time for action as the UK’s leading oral health charity shines the spotlight on a killer disease.

Mouth Cancer Action Month is being organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and will aim to increase awareness of the disease which kills on average one person every five hours in the UK.

The annual campaign will take place throughout the month of November under the tagline of ‘If in doubt, get checked out’ and will attempt to encourage dentists and other health professionals to educate the public about the disease.

Chief executive of the Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said that the continued growth of the campaign could have a considerable effect on the public’s knowledge of the illness.

Dr Carter says: ‘Our determination to take action against mouth cancer grows year on year. This time around we have committed more resources than ever to the campaign as we look to once again help the public beat this dangerous disease.

‘Last year’s Mouth Cancer Action Month was our first month-long campaign for the illness and its success, along the response we picked up from both the public and profession, was so fantastic we are doing it again.

‘Incidences of mouth cancer have risen by more than a third in the past decade to over 5,000 cases yearly, so we will need as much support as possible to reduce this threat.

‘Regular self-examination is now the norm for breast cancer and testicular cancer, and it needs to be the same for mouth cancer. Of course you can cut your risk considerably by leading a healthy lifestyle, so giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol and eating a healthy diet is still very important.

‘However, with one in four younger sufferers living healthily prior to developing the condition, the importance of self-examination cannot be underestimated.’

The call to action reflects the importance of early detection – 9 in 10 people survive mouth cancers caught early yet the five year survival rate remains as low as 50%.

The campaign will point out the importance of checking your mouth for self-diagnosis, oral screening via regular dental visits and of course preventive action.

Simple self-diagnosis such as looking for ulcers which do not heal within three weeks and red or white patches or unusual changes in the mouth, can help toward early detection.

Healthcare professionals can play their part with discussion to raise awareness of major risks, including smoking and drinking – responsible for three quarters of cancers.

All-important oral screenings in the surgery or hospital are vital aspects of the drive to curb cancers while pharmacies play their part with smoking cessation advice.

Dr Carter adds: ‘To maintain its level of success, the campaign needs the support of the profession. It relies on dental practices, hospitals and pharmacies to take part and get involved by hosting a Mouth Cancer Action Month event.

‘Only by being active and participating in the campaign can we start to see a rise in the levels of awareness of mouth cancer and aim to get more people being diagnosed at an earlier stage.’

As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Foundation produces the Blue Ribbon Appeal kit, which contains campaign badges in order to raise awareness among the public.

These badges are available for all dental practices, hospitals and pharmacies by contacting the Foundation.

Meanwhile, the charity will be promoting the campaign at next week’s Dental Showcase exhibition, in London. Members of the team will be running a mouth cancer stall, providing information and answering any questions regarding the campaign.

The Foundation will also continue campaigning for the likes of vaccines for boys to protect against the risks of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus and smoking cessation powers for dental professionals.

For further information, visit the dedicated campaign website www.mouthcancer.org, alternatively, the National Dental Helpline is available Monday to Friday for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188.

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