The Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign, dedicated to raising awareness of the killer disease, takes place throughout November.
Run by the British Dental Health Foundation, in association with Denplan, it calls on all dental professionals to help educate members of the general public about a disease that kills more people in the UK than testicular and cervical cancer combined using the tagline ‘If In Doubt, Get Checked Out’.
The Foundation estimates around 6,000 new cases a year are diagnosed in the UK, and one person dies every five hours from the disease, and as a result, action really must be taken to raise awareness and change these figures. Early detection can massively alter survival chances from only half to nine out of 10 people surviving.
Dental hygienists and therapists have a particularly important role to play.
Ascertaining information about the patient’s lifestyle before an examination will give you a better idea of their risk.
All ‘at risk’ patients should have a thorough soft tissue examination to opportunistically screen for mouth cancer.
With the pattern of the disease changing and an increasing number of cancers at the rear of the tongue and in the throat occurring in younger people due to the HPV virus spread by oral sex, it is more important than ever that all patients are thoroughly screened.
It is much better to arrange for referral of a patient with a suspicious lesion if you are in any doubt. It’s also an opportunity to tell a patient to be aware of the signs of mouth cancer and to educate them on the risk factors.
Overall survival rates from mouth cancer remain low at only 50% but with early detection we can increase this survival rate to 90% and this is why a thorough examination is so important.
Smoking is still the main cause of mouth cancer, and with two thirds of smokers wanting to give up, Mouth Cancer Action Month is the perfect opportunity for health professionals to encourage smokers to do so.
The dental team has a role to play in smoking cessation either by brief intervention in the practice or by referral to stop smoking agencies.
Drinking to excess is another risk factor, with those who drink and smoke heavily up to 30 times more likely to get mouth cancer. Poor diet, ethnic chewing tobacco such as paan and gutkha are also risk factors.
Tell Me About leaflets from the Foundation on mouth cancer, diet and smoking can be invaluable aids to help educate your patients.
Clyde Football Club is sponsoring Mouth Cancer Action throughout the 2011/12 season. The Foundation raises funds and awareness through the Official Blue Ribbon Appeal.
You can support the campaign by encouraging the rest of your team to wear the blue ribbon badge, as well as raising money by selling them to patients. Contact them to request a kit or to receive a copy of the campaign guide.
Phone: 01788 546365