Early detection can save the lives of many people diagnosed with mouth cancer according to leading clinicians.
In Scotland more than 500 people every year are diagnosed with the condition, and is one of the top 10 most commonly diagnosed cancers.
This week has been “Mouth Cancer Awareness Week” across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the key message is attend routine dental check-ups or contact your GP or dentist sooner rather than later if experiencing symptoms lasting three weeks or more.
Smoking and alcohol are two of the main risk factors, and individuals who use both are estimated to be 30 times at greater risk than abstainers.
Anyone can get mouth cancer and early checks are important. Anne Marie Brown, Macmillan Head & Neck Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said:
“Changes in your mouth might not be painful, but people should still see their doctor or dentist if symptoms last longer than three weeks.
“The most common signs are an ulcer or sore in your mouth or on your tongue, a red or white patch in your mouth, or an unexplained pain in your mouth and ear.
“It is also worth making an appointment if you are experiencing an unexplained lump in your neck, a sore or painful throat, or have voice changes or difficulty swallowing, again especially if all of these symptoms last longer than three weeks.
“We should also all increase the amount of fruit and vegetables that we eat on a daily basis.”
A routine dental check-up revealed that 72-year-old Greenock grandmother Betty Glancy had mouth cancer.
Following a biopsy at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, former headteacher Betty was sent to the Southern General Hospital for a 12-hour operation to rebuild her jaw using bone from one of her hips and thigh tissue.
Betty said: “If I had not gone to the dentist regularly I wouldn’t have known. The professionals that supported me were just fantastic.
“The doctor told if I hadn’t found out, it would have been much more difficult to treat.”
Mouth cancer can occur on the tongue, gums, lips, cheeks and the floor or roof of your mouth.
Regular dental attendance allows dentists to examine the soft tissues of the mouth and spot warning signs.
This enables dentists to refer patients to specialist services for diagnosis and treatment at an earlier stage in the disease process than would have been the case if presentation is delayed until symptoms arose.
Once diagnosed, treatment options vary, smaller tumours may only require removal by surgery, or radiotherapy, but more advanced cases may require more extensive surgery and a combination of treatments including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Mr Jeremy McMahon, Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Southern General Hospital encouraged people who appear to have symptoms to have these checked as early as possible.
He said: “Raising awareness of oral cancer is important. It allows individuals to think about whether they might be increasing their risk of developing a cancer.
“Also awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer will lead to less
patients presenting with advanced cancer where achieving a cure is less likely.
“Currently more than half of patients who present with mouth cancer are cured.”
For further information contact 1041 201 4429.