24 October 2014

Throughout November the UK’s leading oral health charity is aiming to save lives by ensuring visual mouth cancer checks are carried out properly during every check-up.

Organised by the Oral Health Foundation, Mouth Cancer Action Month aims to promote how effective examinations can lead to a reduction in the amount of lives lost to mouth cancer, as well as highlighting the significance of early detection and prevention.

CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, outlined the importance of regular mouth cancer checks: “One of the most important things we can do as dental professionals in the battle against mouth cancer is catching it early by recognising the warning signs of the disease.

“Catching mouth cancer cases early significantly increases a person’s chance of survival to 90 per cent from 50 per cent, early diagnosis is incredibly vital. So, in the lead up to Mouth Cancer Action Month, I am calling on dental professionals to have a refresh on how to carry out an effective mouth cancer examination to ensure they do not miss any chance to save someone’s life.

“Be on the lookout for ulcers which have not healed within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and any unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head and neck area.”

“The majority of patients are not even aware that we check for signs of mouth cancer during an examination so it is also important to communicate with our patients about what we are doing so that we can spread awareness and make more people Mouthaware.”

Follow these seven steps when carrying out a mouth cancer check:

Head and Neck – Look at the face and neck. Do both sides look the same?  Look for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face.

Neck – Feel and press along the sides and front of the patient’s neck.  Can you feel any tenderness or lumps?

Lips – Pull down the lower lip and look inside for any sores or change in colour.  Next, use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps or changes in texture.  Repeat this on the upper lip.

Cheek – Use your finger to pull out the cheek so that you can see inside.  Look for red, white or dark patches.  Put your index finger inside the cheek and your thumb on the outside.  Gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers.  Repeat on the other cheek.

Roof of the Mouth – Tilt back the patients head and open their mouth wide to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour.  Run your finger on the roof of the mouth to feel for any lumps.

Tongue – Get your patient to stick out their tongue and look at the surface for any changes in colour or texture.  Gently pull out the tongue holding it with a piece of gauze and look at one side first, then the other side.  Look for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers.  Examine the underside of the tongue by asking the patient to place the tip of their tongue on the roof of the mouth.

Floor of the mouth – Look at the floor of the mouth for changes in colour that are different TH from normal.  Gently press your finger along the floor of their mouth and underside of the tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.

“During Mouth Cancer Action Month, many dental practices offer patients or local groups free oral health checks with mouth cancer examinations.  This is a great way to support your local community, promote awareness of the illness, and at the same time help develop the profile and goodwill of your practice,” added Dr Carter.

“These events promote early detection, as well as education, not just to the patient themselves but through word of mouth it will also improve awareness among their family and friends. So whether it’s for the whole month, a week, a day, or one afternoon, your participation is crucial and can make a significant difference.

“Mouth cancer cases are continuing to grow faster than most other forms of the disease in the UK, this is why the dental profession is instrumental in helping to combat a disease which takes more lives every year than testicular and cervical cancer combined.”

Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016 is being sponsored by Denplan, Dentists’ Provident and Association of Dental Groups and is expected to be supported by thousands of dental and wider health organisations throughout the UK as they attempt to educate patients and the general public about this rapidly increasing disease.

By developing a greater understanding about the early warning signs and symptoms, the lifestyle factors which increase our risk, as well as promoting visual mouth cancer checks as part of regular check-ups, we can potentially make a positive difference to thousands of people every year.

To pledge your support for Mouth Cancer Action Month, please visit www.mouthcancer.org/support and stay up to date with the latest developments in the fight against mouth cancer.