1 November 2016

Are you able to recognise the changes in your mouth? That’s the question posed by the UK’s leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, as they launch Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016.

Today marks the first day of Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016, an annual charity campaign to raise awareness of signs, symptoms and causes of the disease and to ensure that we know how to act if we notice any changes inside our mouth.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation shows that as few as 40% of us are able to identify the major symptoms related to mouth cancer, which include non-healing mouth ulcers, red or white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps and swellings.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, spoke on these alarming findings: “In the UK, mouth cancer cases have increased by 39% in the last decade alone and by 92% since the 1970s, it is one of a very small number of cancers which is actually on the increase and therefore something we all need to be very aware of.

“Unfortunately survival rates have not improved in the last 20 years either, that is why it is vitally important that everyone is more Mouthaware. Mouth cancer can affect anyone so everybody needs to be able to recognise and act on the early warning signs in order to improve early diagnosis and help save lives which otherwise could be lost to this terrible disease.

“Early diagnosis transforms a person’s chances of beating the disease from 50 per cent to 90 percent so it is crucial that everybody knows what to look out for. If you have any of the warning signs of mouth cancer it is vitally important that you visit your dentists straight away, it could save your life.”

Of great concern for the charity is the revelation that that nearly one in five (18%) people questioned said that we would not seek help from a dentist or doctor if we had a mouth ulcer lasting longer than three weeks.

Dr Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer of the campaign’s lead sponsor, Denplan, said on these worrying findings: “Your dentist should be the first point of call for any problems or changes occurring inside the mouth. It is incredibly disturbing therefore that only one in five of us would visit our dentist with what is one of the major early warning signs of mouth cancer.

“During Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016 we want everybody to be Mouthaware and speak to their dentists about mouth cancer. Your dentist will visually examine you for signs of mouth cancer during a dental check-up so it is the perfect opportunity to speak to them about the signs, symptoms and causes of mouth cancer and find out how to self-examine ourselves at home.”

The Oral Health Foundation also found that awareness regarding what puts us at risk of mouth cancer is also frighteningly low. Around one in five (22%) did not associate smoking with mouth cancer while just under half (45%) did not think drinking alcohol to excess was linked to the disease.

More than four in five (81%) also did not know that HPV was a cause of mouth cancer. HPV (the human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted disease and many have linked it to the sharp increase in the number of mouth cancers. Experts predict it will overtake smoking as the leading cause within the next decade.

Find out more information about the signs, symptoms and causes of mouth cancer and how you can get involved in Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016 at www.mouthcancer.org.