Updated: Dec 18, 2018
November: Mouth Cancer Action Month!
Wearing blue lips, is this year’s campaign by the British Health Foundation to help raise awareness and support for mouth cancer. This positive interactive approach will hopefully boost awareness of the disease and get everybody talking about mouth cancer, the risk factors involved, the signs and symptoms, and what we can do to help reduce our risk.
Mouth cancer takes the lives of approx. 2000 people each year in the UK, which is more than testicular and cervical cancer combined. Mouth cancer also takes more lives a year than road traffic accidents.
Don’t think it can’t happen to you –it can. Here is our story:
It was a normal blustery autumn afternoon, and Mrs Julia Smith* came into see us at College Street Dental Centre, for her routine checkup. Julia was a regular, who normally came to see us every six months.
She came upstairs into the surgery and started chatting to her dentist, about her dogs and grandchildren, and her holidays –she loved keeping us upto date! She sat in the dental chair and waited patiently whilst our dentist checked her teeth and gums. The dentist then gave her some TLC – Tongue, Lips and Cheek. Many people don’t realise that visiting the dentist is about much more than just the teeth.
TLC – this is where the dentist is checking the tongue, lips and cheeks (the insides of the mouth) for any red or white marks or abrasions or ulcers that haven’t cleared up for 3 weeks or more. Particular attention may be paid to any patches that don’t have ‘defined’ edges – (a bit like you checking for uneven moles on your body)
Our dentist spotted a small white patch on the inside of Mrs Smith’s left cheek. She explained her findings to Mrs Smith and said that she would refer her to a specialist consultant at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. The same day a referral letter was generated and sent directly to the hospital. Mrs Smith was seen by the Consultant about 3 weeks later. Following a further thorough examination and a biopsy (tests on cells taken from the affected cheek area) Mrs Smith was diagnosed with Oral Cancer.
Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, whether they have their own teeth or not. It is more common in men than women, particularly over the age of 40. In the last year 6,767 people have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK – and increase of over a third in the last ten years.
Sadly, more than 1,800 people in the UK lose their life to mouth cancer every year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if the cancer was caught early enough.
Julia wasn't overweight and didn’t drink alcohol (both of which can be risk factors) but she did smoke - 10 cigarettes a day. She was aware that smoking carries health risks such as Oral Cancer, and although was struggling to give up she had cut down. She also knew the importance of seeing her dentist regularly. Now, it had never been so important – the diagnosis had been caught early as a result of her routine check up.
Mrs Smith underwent treatment, and, we are delighted to say, that she is now completely cancer free.
The message that British Dental Health Foundation is promoting, is strong. It is clear: If in doubt, get it checked out.
*name changed to protect identity
For further information or advice contact College Street Dental Centre in Petersfield, Hampshire on 01730 263180