Be Mouthaware

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The Oral Health Foundation’s Mouth Cancer Action Month calls for a united front to defeat the disease

On Tuesday 15th November, the Oral Health Foundation hosted its annual event promoting both the importance of recognising mouth cancer early and the Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign that runs throughout November every year.

The event, which was held in the Palace of Westminster and supported by its sponsors, Denplan, Dentists’ Provident and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), was attended by passionate members of the healthcare community.

In his introductory speech Sir Paul Beresford MP thanked everyone for their continued support and emphasised the importance of the “Mouthaware” education campaign to raise patients’ awareness of the signs of mouth cancer. He said that with everyone’s commitment, future generations will not have to suffer from mouth cancer.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, agreed. He said,
“Mouth cancer is an increasingly important issue and we must continue to raise awareness. Over the last twelve months we have had growing support at governmental level to bring in the long-awaited HPV gender-neutral vaccination programme. With such an overwhelming response, we are extremely confident this policy will be approved when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) come to make their decision in the New Year. It is important that all supporters of HPV jabs for boys come together and make a sustained and continued effort over the coming months to ensure this Bill goes through.”

Unlike other cancers, which have been in decline in recent years, it has been predicted that the number of mouth cancers diagnosed will continue to rise and could even increase to 7,500 or more by 2017/18.

The focus of the campaign was about educating patients on the risks, symptoms and treatment of mouth cancer. There is still a lack of patient awareness when it comes to recognising changes in their mouths, including ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, lumps, swelling and red and white patches, and it is for that reason that Mouth Cancer Action Month continues to take a proactive stance against the disease.

Representing the ADG, Alison Reid (top with Dr Carter) Chief Executive Officer of Community Dental Services-CIC, highlighted the importance of catching the disease early – perhaps one of the most prominent messages to have come out of the 2016 campaign.

“This terrible disease that we are all gathered here today to discuss is 91% preventable. That is why we must continue our efforts to ensure that patients are more ‘mouth aware’.

“The ADG and its members are very passionate about mouth cancer and we will continue to offer our support in raising awareness and promoting free screening work in hard to reach communities. Unfortunately, we have been met with some resistance in trying to raise awareness, but that is exactly why we must all work hard and become part of fighting this terrible illness.”

Since Peter Baker’s (Campaign Director of HPV Action) keynote speech at last year’s event launch, HPV has been a particularly pertinent topic for the Oral Health Foundation, Mouth Cancer Action Month and the profession.

Professor Mike Lewis, Dean and Head of the School of Dentistry at Cardiff University and this year’s keynote speaker, focused on catching the disease early, when the cancer is small and hasn't had a chance to spread.

“The problem is, mouth cancer can appear very suddenly and spread very quickly – particularly to the lymph nodes in the neck. If it reaches stage 4 without detection, the patient has just a 9% five-year survival rate. Yet, if it were found at stage 1, the patient would have an 80% survival rate – that’s a huge difference.

“At is stands, 60% of cases aren’t diagnosed until the cancer has reached stage 4, and approximately 50% of patients do not survive beyond five years. This is a clear reminder that we must do everything we can to discuss mouth cancer with our patients more frequently, to undertake regular checks and assessments and to always biopsy something if it looks dangerous.”

Other figureheads to give speeches at the event were Sarah Bradbury (above) Head of Marketing and Communications at Dentists’ Provident, and Dr Catherine Rutland, Senior Dental Advisor at Denplan.

Change is needed to help reduce the risk of mouth cancer. To refresh healthcare professionals’ knowledge regarding mouth cancer detection and help them stay up-to-date with the latest material in the field, the ADG – in association with {my}dentist – offers a free oral cancer module. Visit www.mydentistacademy.co.uk/oral_cancer/story.html 

Taking the right steps today could save a life tomorrow.

For more information about the ADG visit www.dentalgroups.co.uk