24 November 2014

Cancer may provoke a range of emotions but according to a new poll many of us think of it as curable.

In a new survey by the oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, curable was one of the first three words that sprung to mind when we were asked to describe cancer.

Mouth cancer sufferer Emma Shanks, 31 from Glasgow, believes with the right help it is possible to overcome the disease.

"Mouth cancer is a particularly challenging to treat and to recover from. Although the risk factors need to be highlighted, around one in four cases have no known risk factors associated with them.

"We use our mouths for eating, and verbal and physical communication on a constant basis. It's a difficult cancer to treat because it involves performing surgery and providing radiation treatment on very intricate areas of the oral cavity.

"The side effects of treatment often have long term consequences on our ability to do all of the things with our mouths we take for granted. Yet even this most abhorrent of cancers can be beaten. By far the best chance of surviving mouth cancer with a great quality of life is through early detection; this means being aware of the signs and symptoms. Attending 6 monthly dental check-ups is a fantastic way to do this because dentists will perform a check for signs of mouth cancer as part of your check-up.

"Should you be unfortunate to receive a diagnosis of mouth cancer, there will be a whole team of specialists to support your emotional and physical recovery. Support from physiotherapy, speech therapy and nutritionists helped my recovery enormously. After surviving mouth cancer four times, I am fortunate to have a great quality of life through support of many specialists, but most of all through the very early detection of my tumour. I was extremely lucky."

More than 2,500 people were asked to give three words they associated with the disease, with deadly, devastating and scary the three most common answers.

More than 910 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every day. Many forms of cancer are beginning to reduce in number, but campaigners are concerned about one form of the disease is on the rise, mouth cancer.

More people lose their life to mouth cancer than cervical and testicular cancer combined. Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, are risk factors for the disease, one experts predict could double within the next decade.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, hopes Emma's story makes people face up to the risks associated with smoking, drinking and obesity.

Dr Carter said: "There really is no greater warning than to listen to the words of someone who has mouth cancer.

"Cancer doesn't need to be scary or feared. Support networks, information and improved treatments all play a role in a greater survival rates.

"Emma's cancer, for instance, was caught early, but many people unfortunately do not come forward soon enough. There is no reason why cancer sufferers, if given early diagnosis can't live a long and normal life. People need to be aware that ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth are possible signs and symptoms. Our advice to everyone is if in doubt, get checked out."

For more information about the campaign, sponsored by Denplan, supported by Dentists' Provident, the Association of Dental Groups and charity partner the Mouth Cancer Foundation, please visit the official Mouth Cancer Action Month website.

The results from the survey have been released as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month 2014. You can read the press release story on the Mouth Cancer Action Month News section.