‘If in doubt, get checked out’

November 2nd, 2015

This November sees the return of Mouth Cancer Action Month. This is a campaign run by the British Dental Health Foundation which focuses on raising awareness of mouth cancer. It aims to save thousands of lives due to earlier detection, and through prevention of the disease.

Last year, more than 6,700 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer. In fact, over the last decade there has been more than a 30% increase in the number of cases. As opposed to other cancers, mouth cancer is one of the few that are predicted to increase in number of cases over the coming years. This is a worrying statistic, and with almost 2000 deaths each year due to the disease, it’s time to take action and fight back.

So what is mouth cancer and who does it affect? Mouth cancer affects the lips, tongue, cheeks and/or throat. It is most common in people over the age of 40, and particularly in males. However, increasingly younger patients are being diagnosed, and there has been a rise in the number of female patients as well.

Risk factors:

  • Tobacco use: approximately two thirds of mouth cancer cases are accounted for by smoking.
  • Alcohol: excessive consumption of alcohol is linked with approximately 30% of cases.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): oral sex is an increasing problem and causal factor.
  • Poor diet: around half of all mouth cancer cases are partly caused by poor diet.
  • Chewing or smokeless tobacco: this type of tobacco still contains a high amount of dangerous chemicals.
  • Environmental tobacco smoke: passive smoking, or exposure to second hand smoke places you at a far higher risk of developing mouth cancer.

A key message that Mouth Cancer Action Month will be promoting is: ‘If in doubt, get checked out’. Mouth cancer is all too often undiagnosed until it’s latter stages, when it is too late to do anything about. If caught early, the odds for survival are actually quite good, and so it’s important to make sure that any unusual symptoms are checked out. There are three key signs that the campaign is aiming to raise awareness of:

  • Ulcers: if these hang around longer than three weeks, something may not be right.
  • Patches in your mouth that appear discoloured, particularly red or white.
  • Lumps or swellings that appear unusual in the mouth, head or neck area.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, then make an appointment with your dentist and ask them to check for you. They will be able to carry out a full examination and plan with you any further investigation work needed.

Mouth Cancer Action Month has run for several years, and as well as aiming to raise awareness, also fundraises to continue research into this disease, and to support those affected by the illness. There are lots of ways you can get involved:

  • Blue Lip Selfie Campaign: take a photo of yourself with your lips painted blue. Post it with the hashtag #bluelipselfie Please donate once you have posted.
  • Blue Ribbon Appeal: wear a blue ribbon badge with pride. These badges cost just £1 and can be purchased online, or from a participating retailer. Why not display a Blue Ribbon Appeal Kit at your work?
  • Fundraising: you could host a ‘dress blue day’, a sponsored walk or run, or even take on a bigger challenge like a skydive!

There is lots of information on getting involved and planning your event, as well as more about mouth cancer and what to look out for, on the Mouth Cancer Action Month website. Take a look today to find out more and to plan how you might get involved in the campaign, and help to reduce cases of mouth cancer across the country.

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