25 October 2018

The Oral Health Foundation was joined by a room full of campaigners and supporters earlier this week, as the charity launched this year’s Mouth Cancer Action Month at the House of Commons.

More than 75 people from across 40 organisations were in attendance and heard from a range of speakers reemphasising the need for greater nationwide support for mouth cancer awareness.

Dr Ben Atkins, trustee of the Oral Health Foundation brought the room to order and introduced Sir Paul Beresford MP, the event’s parliamentary sponsor.

Sir Paul spoke about the importance of campaigns such as Mouth Cancer Action Month, before highlighting the landmark decision made by English, Welsh and Scottish governments to introduce gender-neutral HPV vaccinations. 

The Oral Health Foundation’s Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter OBE, was next to welcome everybody to the event, speaking about the continued importance of mouth cancer awareness.

Dr Carter said: “It is a great pleasure to be able to bring so many ardent campaigners against mouth cancer in one place, to help drive home the importance of the continued need for action.

“We owe our thanks to Sir Paul Beresford, who makes it possible for the campaign launch to be held at the House of Commons, showing just how important this campaign is.

“Thankfully, since we started Mouth Cancer Action Month, awareness of this deadly disease has grown from a very low level to a point where most people have at least heard about the disease, but it is not enough yet.

“During November, thousands of grassroots activities and events will make a positive impact to mouth cancer awareness across the country. We will continue to do this until we put a stop to mouth cancer in the UK.”

The room then heard from the campaign’s two main sponsors, Simplyhealth Professionals and Dentists’ Provident.

Dr Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth Professionals, added: “We continue to show our support to this campaign because we understand just how much it has done already, and also, how much work is still to be done to save lives.

“Mouth cancer cases continue to increase in the UK. Even after the many years of successful campaigning, research still shows that 73% of UK adults are not fully aware of the main symptoms of mouth cancer.”

Dr Clover also highlighted research from Simplyhealth Professionals which found that 83% of people in the UK do not check for signs of mouth cancer regularly. When put together with the number of people still failing to visit the dentist regularly, shows why many cases of mouth cancer are found late.

“I believe dental professionals should be at the forefront of changing the public perception of mouth cancer. We have produced a step-by-step guide for dental professionals to help do this and support through social media will be essential in bringing life saving messages to more and more people.”

Paul Roebuck, who was diagnosed with mouth cancer last year, addressed the room with his powerful, emotional and important story of his fight with mouth cancer.

Paul said: “When you get diagnosed with mouth cancer you ask yourself a series of questions; what about my mortgage, my bills, my car, my kids education, my legacy, my life’s work?  What will happen to my kids, my wife, my family and friends will those people stand by me?

“You then think about being unable to speak. Will my grandchildren be able to hear their granddad’s voice? Finally, you think ‘will I survive?’.  Will this go further, and will I still be here next year? These are the important things which getting diagnosed with mouth cancer makes you think about.

“I am now left thinking, will it come back? I have been given a clean bill of health now, but it will always stay with me.”

The Oral Health Foundation was joined at the launch event by six other charities and support groups, all of which do vitally important work to raise awareness of mouth cancer.

The Mouth Cancer Foundation, Noman is an Island, the Throat Cancer Foundation, HPV Action, Boundaries for Life and Heads Together, all supported the parliamentary reception by being a co-host.

Mouth cancer survivor Rachel Parsons and Dr Philip Lewis both spoke on behalf of the Mouth Cancer Foundation, emphasising the need for greater awareness about the disease.

Find out more about how you can support Mouth Cancer Action Month.