The Oral Health Foundation is calling for free dental care for all oral cancer patients.
These calls come after a study found that patients who had suffered with oral cancer had to pay a minimum of £977.20 in dental costs every year, more than 23 times the average annual cost at just £41.20.
The study also found that a cancer diagnosis leaves patients feeling ‘afraid’, ‘concerned’, ‘scared’ and ‘angry’ about financial problems associated with the disease.
‘Mouth cancer treatment characteristically leaves people with permanent, challenging oral health problems such as chronic pain and discomfort, significant tooth loss, dry mouth and severe gum disease, requiring long-term dental care,’ Dr Chet Trivedy, trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, said.
‘This means they regularly have frequent dental visits, which under the current NHS dental model, they have to pay for themselves.
‘With NHS dental charges ranging from £20.60 to £244.30 (the current top and bottom NHS band charges), multiple visits a month can see the costs add up quickly, becoming unmanageable for most.
‘In addition, dental implants, which are often required to replace missing teeth, are currently not available on the NHS and remain unaffordable for many patients.
‘By being aware and catching mouth cancer cases early we believe it can help limit the physical impact of treatment and therefore the financial impact associated with it.’
Around 85% of people believe the current system is ‘unfair’ and believe it should be made easier for oral cancer patients.
Macmillan Cancer Support has dubbed it ‘cancers hidden price tag’ and estimates that four in five (83%) people are, on average, £570 a month worse off as a result of a cancer diagnosis, as income goes down and expenditure rises.
‘After treatment, mouth cancer patients often have problems with swallowing, drinking and eating,’ added Dr Trivedy.
‘Speech may also be affected.
‘Facial disfigurement is a common side effect of surgical treatment which leaves the patient with additional psychological trauma.
‘Facing cancer is one of the very toughest challenges in life, both physically and emotionally, and the effects can be felt long after treatment has taken place.
‘It is important that Government recognises this.’