20 November 2014

One in ten people would inform the world they had mouth cancer on social media.

Unsurprisingly 18-35 year-olds are most willing to share the news through social media. What may come as a surprise is the one in five 35-55 year-olds that would also use the three most popular social media forums in the UK - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - to share their news.

With more than 65 million registered social media accounts in the UK alone, it is a new platform for raising awareness and sharing their experience.

Telling our partners appeared top of the list, with one in five sharing the news with mum. Friends, children, dad and grandparents made up the rest of the answers.

Social media signals The results have been released as part of November's Mouth Cancer Action Month, run by the British Dental Health Foundation. The campaign, sponsored by Denplan and supported by Dentists' Provident and the Association of Dental Groups, aims to raise awareness of the disease and help those whose lives have been affected by mouth cancer.

Patient Ambassador for campaign charity partner the Mouth Cancer Foundation Stuart Caplan, 65 from Marylebone, thinks social media is an important platform for reaching a different generation.

Stuart said: "Targeting the younger generation is a problem. I volunteer for the ‘Get To Know Cancer' campaign and among many issues revolving around awareness is the problem of the disproportionate number of young men dying from testicular cancer simply because they don't check themselves or feel that seeking medical advice might impinge on their ‘masculinity' or perceived ‘virility'.

"The same resistance applies to mouth cancer. Many people aren't even aware of its existence. I use Facebook and Twitter to share or re-post messages, as well as using it to share my experience, particularly if I am going for a follow-up meeting with my surgeon. The more people who know about what mouth cancer is the better."

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, thinks social media is becoming an increasingly important way for people to share their story.

Dr Carter said: "For those already battling cancer, sharing their personal story can be an act of catharsis and in the era of social media, it's increasingly being used as a fundraising tool. Social media has transformed healthcare and given patients a voice like never before.

"We are also finding celebrities have an influence in social media when it comes to cancer. After Michael Douglas revealed his mouth cancer was HPV-related, social media was awash with comments. However crude those comments may or may not have been, the value of a celebrity discussing cancer, and particularly a risk factor, will hopefully prompt everyone into discussing the disease and raising awareness.

"People who use tobacco, drink alcohol to excess, have a poor diet and are exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted by oral sex, increase their chances of developing the disease. However, mouth cancer can affect anyone. That is why we all need to be mouth aware and look out for ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and lumps or swellings in the mouth.

"You know your mouth better than anyone, so if you notice any changes but aren't convinced, our advice is simple - if in doubt, get checked out."

The results have been released as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month. You can read the press release story on the Mouth Cancer Action Month News section.