Mouth Cancer Action Month 2015

November 17, 2015

Christmas preparations are gathering momentum in the shops but the message from the British Dental Health Foundation this November is: ‘if in doubt, get checked out’. This is the strapline from Mouth Cancer Action Month 2015, a campaign which aims to save thousands of lives by raising awareness of mouth cancer. It is hoped that this will lead to prevention of the disease in some cases, and to earlier detection for others.

In 2014, more than 6700 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer. Almost 2000 deaths occurred due to the disease. Yet many people aren’t aware of this type of cancer. Statistics show that the illness is on the rise and that over the last decade alone there has been a 30% increase in the number of cases diagnosed. In comparison to other cancers, mouth cancer is one of the few forms of the illness that is still on the increase.

Mouth cancer affects all areas of the mouth: lips, tongue, cheeks and/or throat. Males are particularly at risk, and even more so if they are aged 40 or over. That said, there has been an increase in the number of younger and female patients who are being diagnosed.

There are several factors which may make you more likely to develop mouth cancer. Tobacco (including passive smoke and chewing tobacco) and alcohol consumption are key risk factors, as are poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

As earlier mentioned, the key message from Mouth Cancer Action Month is: ‘if in doubt, get checked out’. There are three key signs to look out for:

  • Ulcers: if you have an ulcer for more than three weeks, this could be a sign that something is not quite right.
  • Discoloured patches in your mouth, particularly those that are red or white.
  • Lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck area.

If you notice any of these symptoms, get them checked out. Mouth cancer is often late to be diagnosed, which can make it very hard to treat successfully. However if it is caught early then the odds for survival are actually quite good. Your dentist will be able to carry out a full examination and plan any further testing needed with you, so don’t hesitate to ask them to take a look.

As well as promoting awareness of mouth cancer and the signs and symptoms, the focus month aims to raise funds to pay for continued research into the disease, and to support those affected by the illness. Across the country there are many fundraising events taking place including the ‘Blue Lip Selfie Campaign’ where you are invited to take a photo of yourself with blue lips, and then post your photo on Twitter after making a donation. If you’re not a fan of social media, there are the Blue Ribbon Appeals, ‘dress blue days’, sponsored walks or runs as well as numerous other activities. Why not plan your own?

If you’d like to get involved in Mouth Cancer Action Month, or would like to find out more about the disease, visit the British Dental Health Foundation web page dedicated to the campaign. With your support, we can go even further to decrease the number of new cases, and improve the chances of those unlucky enough to be affected by the disease.

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