Coming to a screen(ing) near you

Over the course of the last decade, the profession has supported Mouth Cancer Action Month by helping to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease. To help catch even more cases, campaign organisers the British Dental Health Foundation are calling on dental teams to take further action.

A free screening event is one of, if not the best way to actively help detect the disease early.

No matter how big or small the event is the campaign, sponsored by Denplan and supported by Dentists’ Provident and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), is an ideal opportunity to open up your practice doors to the public and conducting screenings can help to save lives.

In 2010 – the latest set of figures available – cases of mouth cancer exceeded the 6,500 barrier for the first time. In total 6,539 were diagnosed. With your help, up to 90 per cent of all cases diagnosed early will survive. Without it, those chances fall to just 50 per cent.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: ‘During last year’s campaign, we had the support of more than 1,000 campaign registrations, but there were less than 200 known screening events. This means less than one in five people who registered their interest held a screening event. Cases of mouth cancer are on the rise, so we really need more people to get involved this year.

‘Free screening events are the difference between early detection and diagnosing the disease too late. Most people with mouth cancer present late as stage 4 – the most advanced stage where time is of the essence in potentially saving a life.

‘We know organising a screening event can pose a few logistical questions, and that’s why our campaign website has a dedicated page to help you. There’s a fact sheet of everything you need to know heading into the day to help you make a welcome contribution.’

DH&T dental hygienist of the year, Christina Chatfield, voiced her support for free screenings and explained why the profession should get involved.

She said: ‘We’ve held free screening events in the past couple of years. I have always believed it is necessary to get involved and raise awareness of the disease, and more importantly to refer any patients if there’s any doubt. One of the referrals thankfully turned out to be benign, however he quit smoking the day he was referred.

‘The key to a successful event is constantly shouting about it. Using local publicity to drive your event and communicating every day on social media platforms is a great way to get patients through the door. Don’t be afraid to refer anyone you’re unsure about – it could save their life.’

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